Dan Deacon captures the fun and folly of creative dog grooming
Making his musical debut in 2007 with Spiderman of the Rings, Baltimore producer Dan Deacon is known for his distinct bubbly, colorful sound—so it is no surprise that he was chosen to write the score for Rebecca Stern’s creative dog grooming documentary, Well Groomed. His music is rich in texture and energy, simultaneously restrained and yet full of life—it paints the perfect background for the somewhat bizarre subject matter of the documentary, allowing the listener to emotionally connect with the people who dye and snip fur into sculptures at Groom Expo, the biggest creative grooming convention in the nation.
One challenge that comes with film scoring is the possibility that the music, separate from the video footage, feels as if something is missing. Deacon ensures Well Groomed can stand alone as an album by creating a sense of progression and connection throughout, weaving in elements from each previous song to the next to produce a cotton-candy tapestry of sound. Utilizing his trademark pulsing vibraphones, courtesy of vibraphonist Rich O’Meara; plucky guitar, via guitarist Steve Strohmeier; cascading piano runs, performed by M.C. Schmidt and buzzing synthesizers, he builds a soundscape that is dynamic and fun, while also preserving an element of emotion and innocence.
“Snip Snip” opens the album. Beginning with just some simple guitar and repetitive synths, the bright sound of the vibraphone soon jumps in, as does that of M.C. Schmidt’s piano. Perhaps the most creative element of the song is the sound of scissors layered throughout, adding to the already impressively multidimensional song. The introduction of new elements of sound throughout builds excitement for the tracks to come, while also highlighting Deacon’s ability to paint images of pastel-colored towers of fur being coiffed into shape through purely auditory imagery. “Scissors Down” is a perfect example of Deacon’s mastery of anticipation building, quickly expanding from the sound of comfortably-paced solo synth octaves to one that is extremely upbeat and complex. Another example is “Jurassic Bark,” which conveys eagerness and excitement through its springy instrumentation. In stark contrast is “Overwhelmed,” a masterpiece of dainty guitar and piano that echoes straight into the heart of the listener. Though short, “Maybe It Was The Baby Dinosaur” is one of the most touching tracks of the album, sparking contemplation and perhaps even self-doubt through the sustained, bittersweet instrumentation.
Ultimately, Deacon is able to not only enhance the ostentatious, boisterous and maybe even tacky nature of creative dog grooming, but also strip away at it when necessary, creating the perfect companion to Stern’s film that also manages to tell a story from start to finish on its own. Deacon convinces the audience to appreciate creative dog grooming in its entirety—the outlandishness, playfulness and emotional aspects are all captured in Deacon’s soundtrack, willing Well Groomed’s viewers to laugh and cry along with the dog groomers the documentary follows.