When not busy being fellated by the indie rock press, Animal Collective’s members (Noah Lennox as Panda Bear, Dave Portner as Avey Tare, Brian Weitz as Geologist and Josh Dibb as Deakin) have spent the past decade putting together an extremely riveting and varied discography. From the quirky avant-pop of Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished to 2009’s gorgeous Merriweather Post Pavilion, they’ve established themselves not only as trendsetters but also as bona fide indie stars. And as successful groups will do, they have yielded several solo vanity projects. This has hardly been a bad thing; Panda Bear’s 2007 release Person Pitch was a delightfully sunny slice of collage pop. So, inevitably, we are brought to Avey Tare’s Down There.
We quickly learn that the alligator artwork on the sleeve is rather appropriate, as the album maintains a consistently swampy feel throughout. Drums splash along rather than thump, sounding like pebbles being thrown into a stream. If not pop-centric, the songwriting is nonetheless interesting. “Oliver Twist” playfully moves along, with Portner panning and pitch-shifting his voice over rattling, watery percussion and persistent bass drum. The best bits (specifically, album centerpieces “Glass Bottom Boat” and “Ghost of Books”) succeed because of Portner’s soundscapes. Sounds bubble up all around and envelope the listener, breathing organically thanks to generous swaths of reverb. The lyric are unintelligible, but the vocals prove to be just as murky as the atmosphere. The hushed, muffled production on “Cemeteries” allows Portner’s breaths between words to echo and fade into the sonic landscape.
Overall, Down There comes off as a very competently produced sort of B-sides accompaniment to Animal Collective’s discography. No songs come off as buoyantly joyous as “Fireworks,” “My Girls” or “Brothersport.” While it is an intriguing album of experimental electronics, it just creates the need to dig through older AnCo records to find those songs that scratch that pop itch just a little bit better.
Original Author: James Rainis