When I first heard the thumping house/disco EP Was It Ever Real?, I had a very hard time believing that it could possibly be a teaser for something more substantial, as much of that EP felt like top-tier Soft Pink Truth that leaves very little room for improvement. If those songs did not make the cut for the full-length, I felt the album surely had to be either absolutely brilliant or absolutely wrong-headed with no possible middle ground. As it turns out, I was at least right about the "little room for improvement" bit, as Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This? is not noticeably stronger than the preceding EP. Instead, it feels more like a lateral move, taking Drew Daniel's star-studded house party in a more kaleidoscopically arty and eccentric direction. Unsurprisingly, Deeper features roughly the same international cast of talented guests as the EP, but there are some noteworthy new additions as well, such as Nate Wooley, Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner, and Jaime Stewart (Xiu Xiu). The result is a bit less "all killer, no filler" this time around, but the trade-off is that Deeper is an appropriately deeper and more immersive plunge into Daniel's psyche, touching upon everything from Barry White to George Bataille to krautrock while still managing to be functional, forward-thinking, and archly fun dance music.
The album kicks off in style with its first certified banger, "Deeper," which deceptively fades in with bleary drones before launching into a straight up classic disco groove with all the requisite hand claps and funky guitars. There is enough subtle dissonance to give it a somewhat delirious and unreal feeling right from the jump, but things do not get truly art-damaged until an unexpected church bell passage subsides. While the groove remains unswervingly propulsive for a bit longer, the insistent sexy thump is increasingly mingled with generous helpings of kitschy string stabs, tropical-sounding guitars, hazy flutes, and a host of other inspired psych touches before it all dissolves into smeary abstraction. I suppose the extended running time and ambient comedown preclude "Deeper" from being a hot single, but several of the pieces that immediately follow gamely rekindle the dancefloor fire. "La Joie Devant La Mort" is one of the album's more "perverse pop moments," as Jaime Stewart sings a George Bataille line about being in search of joy before death over an endearingly weird groove that calls to mind Coil's Love's Secret Domain album colliding with "A Fifth of Beethoven" and a chorus of tiny frogs. Wasner then takes the mic for the breezily sensuous "Wanna Know," which milks the album title's question for all its worth over a groove that could have been plucked from a Love Unlimited Orchestra album. The following "Trocadero" then pays homage to the "sleaze" disco subgenre synonymous with the titular SF club before "Mood Swing" ends the first half with a killer slow-building disco fusion of spiritual jazz, gurgling psychedelia, and Reich-ian piano patterns.
The second half is a bit more abstract and eclectic, as the 13-minute "Sunwash" is a chilled out bit of synthy Tangerine Dream-inspired spaciness. To some degree, It feels like it belongs on a completely different album than everything that came before it, but it makes a fine palate cleanser and it technically is on a different album vinyl-wise (Deeper is a double LP). The languorously dub-inflected "Joybreath" extends that post-club "morning after" vibe further, as Rose E Kross whispers and murmurs Bataille lines in French as twinkling piano and bleary sax and vibraphone melodies lazily wander through a fuzzy dreamscape. I imagine it evokes the feeling of waking up on a beach at sunrise after a hedonistic night of dancing and substance abuse, but my life is far too boring for me to be entirely certain of that. A couple of curious detours then follow, but the album ends on an incredibly strong note with a swooning cover of Willie Hutch's "Now That It's All Over" that feels half "psychotropic exotica bliss" and half "Love Boat" theme. It's a fittingly beautiful and poignant end to the album, as Daniel arguably sheds all of his ironic, sophisticated, and avant-garde tendencies for six minutes of pure naked joy (albeit pure naked joy repurposed from a blaxploitation classic). In any case, it is one hell of a cover as well as the perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable album. And, of course, both Deeper and Was It Ever Real? have earned a permanent place in my heart for being primarily inspired by an anonymous woman's decades-old grievance with a club DJ.