Monday, October 25, 2010

Avey Tare - Down There

You could probably say I've fallen out as a fan Animal Collective these days. Though from Spirit They've Gone, Spirit They've Vanished up until Sung Tongs, I was with them, but by then the public had ruined what had used to be a band with great potential, showing up first with the raw power of STG,STV and almost reaching perfection on HCtI. Maybe it was just that as they began to rely more heavily on loops, it became almost maddeningly difficult to listen to them from my bowl.

A lot can be said for releasing FLAC-ready tunes that provide a pleasant vibration through plastic and a couple of inches of water.

Luckily, Avey Tare's first solo release, Down There, follows up with early day Animal Collective rather than the more pop-oriented fare these days. Produced by Deakin, the muddled sounds of Down There call to mind the way that the tunes of HCtI reverberated off my colored rocks and pleasantly through these plastic ferns. But to think too much about the past would be to ignore the album's distinct rhythmic tics. While, back in STG,STV days AC's music traveled at a frenetic but clipped pace, here the pulse is more introverted and irregular. The straightforward pulse of "Oliver Twist" meshes perfectly with the convulsions of gills, while the clatter of "Lucky 1" is panicked and freaked-out, as if Avey Tare had seen some enormous piece of food be dropped into- oh wait, no someone just stick his finger into the bowl. The rhythms are prominent, but though far from club-friendly.

Not everything is fish flakes here. Certain tracks were dense and abstract to the point of senselessness. For example, the only question brought up by Down There's opener "Laughing Hieroglyphic," with the lines 'My heart and my lungs do/ Why can't I do the same for everyone I love too?' is...what are lungs?

There's a fantastical bent to the album that opens up with repeated listening, the dripping, moist "fishbowl" vibe that Portner's mentioned in several interviews since. The album's theme of the water reveals itself in the beginning of the stately instrumental "Glass Bottom Boat", where one warped voice asks another, "Hey, do you know how to get to that cemetery?" and receives the reply, "Sure, I can get you there. Just step into my boat here." The exchange brings to mind water, not incidentally central to most classic works. Portner's on that same boat later on during Down There's standout "Cemeteries", his voice reverberating off the reflecting pool of the hushed production: "Looking back on/ Old days". Throughout the record, the vogue for water that permeates so much modern indie gets inverted. Sometimes, this record says, the past is better left behind.