Album: Animal Collective, Fall Be Kind (Domino)
Friday 04 December 2009
A generously-proportioned five-track EP, Fall Be Kind employs the same loop-based methods as Animal Collective's popular Merriweather Post Pavilion, but here used to create a more crepuscular, aptly autumnal atmosphere.
Despite all the repetitive activity and layered vocal harmonies, there's a drowsiness about it that's quite alluring, leaving the impression that the group are trying to bypass conscious thought, and tap into emotional or aesthetic instincts. As they put it in "What Would I Want? Sky", "I should be floating, but I'm weighted by thinking".
"Graze" opens proceedings with a shimmering high loop as singer Avey Tare wakes, opens his eyes and finds "some ideas are brewing"; a dark undertow of cello then carries his soaring, treated voice up into a swirling heat-haze before, three minutes in, the track takes a sudden left turn, developing a Shaft hihat groove, over which is laid a bizarre pan-pipe figure lifted from a Gheorghe Zamfir record. It's the kind of crazy disjunction you might find on a Beta Band track, but they just about pull it off despite the initially grating gear-change. "What Would I Want? Sky" features further loopy confusion, augmented by synthesiser bubbles spiralling up into a Grateful Dead sample. "Everything all right?" enquires Tare, "You feeling stoney? You feeling phony? You're not the only." And certainly, there's no denying the powerful contact high evoked by the miasmic whirl of sound, which seems to usher forth from somewhere midway between sleep and wakefulness.
With "On A Highway", that mood becomes explicit, featuring Tare's observations, musings and doper daydreams as the band's tour-bus barrels down another highway. Unlike most road songs, it accurately evokes the sheer boredom of life in a touring band, gazing through a window at identical towns while the mind freewheels. On "Bleed", the motion develops a strange stasis, thanks to a curious vocal arrangement which resembles a round conducted by voices in different rooms of varying sizes, over a slowly looping two-chord drone. It's as if The Beach Boys were engaged in one of their periodic reunions in studios hundreds of miles apart.
But by the time "I Think I Can" concludes its seven-minute progress, that mood of estranged, minimal association has blossomed into a cascading choral chant set to a celesta figure and jerky, cyclical rhythm, augmented by occasional bursts of quirky, Raymond Scott-style kitsch electronica. It's a fitting finale for an EP poised on the cusp of ambition and enervation, by a band trying to find inspiration without seeking it out too strenuously, and finding it in the spaces where daydreams overlap.
Download this Graze; I Think I Can; What Would I Want? Sky; Bleed
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