Portraits reveals much about Deer [Review]

Deer’s four-track EP offers a striking glimpse into the minds of the Mexican electro duo

Chris Gillett |

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Ahead of their performance at Hong Kong’s Sonar Festival next weekend, Mexican electro duo Deer have released their new four-track EP Portraits, a record inspired by their experience as Hong Kong residents for the past five years.

Opener Wild Eyes addresses immigration as singer Adriana Martinez theatrically delivers, “Sit down, wake up, shut up, turn around”. Instrumentally, it’s full of resonating synths, Nine Inch Nails industrial kits, and a low, dirgy guitar riff, as if Crystal Castles had joined forces with Royal Blood – it’s a bold start.

Inspired by the emptiness of a successful man, In The Shadows is the highlight. The electronic mesh from Miguel Bastida has a distinct 90s trip-hop/Portishead vibe, a Moby-esque bass line, choir pads, and dissonant low strings all thrown in, creating the perfect backdrop for Martinez to push her dark, moody, almost-operatic vibrato, making her vocal as powerful and passionate as Anna Calvi.

I Want It All is another powerful techno track. Siren stabs and complex beats pierce through the hypnotic bass line and scuzz metal guitar. It sounds cinematic, but gloomy, and would feel right at home alongside either Chelsea Wolfe or The Prodigy.

Alive feels the least developed out of the batch. With a dramatic shift from glitchy hi-hats and gentle keys to an Arca-esque acid beat outro, to Martinez’s vocals being lost in the mix, her lyrics, “Afraid of my fears, afraid of myself,” unfortunately don’t quite have so much impact.

Portraits is a striking glimpse into the minds of Deer, and if this EP is anything to go by, their Sonar performance is set to be a belter.

Edited by Ginny Wong