Review Summary: Freak folk, hold the folk.
Many great albums have a sense of tension and release; that is, that the tracks on it, instead of going straight for the gut, take another, more interesting route, making the payoff all the more rewarding. Whether it be a sort of full-song crescendo, passages of ambience before the big climax, or a sonic wallow that lets you absorb just exactly what's going on, there's something extremely gratifying about a band that knows the difference between an all-out aural attack and structured passion, slowly released in easily-to-handle passages. To call Animal Collective's 2002 live set Hollinndagain
a "great" album would be a bit of a stretch: its flaws are prominent and sometimes actually quite distracting when examined closely. It simply won't appeal to people who don't have a large amount of patience and can withstand the freakiest of the "freak folk" bunch. Nevertheless, it's easy to see the band realizing the importance of accumulation of intensity on the album, allowing the listener to truly be intrigued with the music, instead of standing in childish awe of spastic song structures and ear-shattering sonics.
At first, Hollinndagain
might not seem like such a huge step up from the band's awful 2001 album, Danse Manatee
. Many of the characteristics of the latter are passed on over here: tribal vocals, extended jams, unrelenting sections of abrasive noise, and thumping rhythms. However, the band puts these traits to good use here. For example, the first side of the album, consisting of "I See You Pan" and "Pride and Fight" (which together max out at about 22 minutes), instead of wallowing slowly in its own atmosphere, gradually moves toward a tangible goal, something the longer tracks of Danse Manatee
seemed to forget to do. "I See You Pan", starting off as about 3 minutes of caustic static, slowly introduces a vocal melody and a droning keyboard, making sure to draw out the most out of each element. The static slowly fades out at the 8-minute mark, leaving only the keyboard and the band's vocals (mostly consisting of Panda Bear repeating the same, hiccup-y note and Avey Tare doing an impression of a hi-hat). At the track's very end, however, a pounding drumbeat is introduced, giving the song a tribal intensity that is soon expanded upon with an excellent sense of musical turbulence. The track fades into "Pride and Fight", which adds lyrics to the formless vocals, giving them more of a "normal" touch. However, the most exciting change is made about two-and-a-half minutes in: an echoing guitar playing a repeated chord is introduced, while the drums pound with rousing intensity.
And, well, that's about all you need to know. About 13 minutes into the album, and all you have is a guitar, some drums, and tribal chants, all playing the same rhythm. Where's the appeal? Simply put, there might not be
any appeal for those that don't take meaning out of Animal Collective's slow buildups and cooldowns. Of course, not all of the songs follow the exact blueprint set by the first two songs. "Forest Gospel", following "Pride and Fight", starts off with the most exciting moment on the album, with the band chanting wordless incantations and Panda Bear playing blindingly fast drums. The song from there sets a scary mood, repeating "Pow, all that you need is a nick, you pull out the prick, you pull out the stick" until the song reaches a point where Panda Bear's drums become so ferociously intense that it drowns out the rest of the song. The song (and the rest of the album, for that matter) has a distinctly fierce feel to it, and, however sloppy it is, it makes up for it in pure intensity.
The album may feel disjointed, which can probably be explained by the fact that it is
disjointed. The album was recorded in two parts; the first three songs being recorded on WFMU, a New Jersey radio station, and the second half being recorded while the band was touring with noise band Black Dice. The possible influence of Black Dice on the band is very visible here; the last four songs are some of the least musical in their whole discography. "There's An Arrow", which follows "Forest Gospel", has a repeating motif of a synth line of ear-shatteringly high frequencies being repeated throughout. "LaBlakely Dress", culled from Danse Manatee
, is considerably more calm, but no more musical: it consists simply of muted synth chords and Avey Tare's vocals being fed through a "chopping" effect, and the result is something decidedly alien. Album closer "Pumpkin Gets a Snakebite" is near-unbearable: it includes near-unlistenable amounts of noise and effects, to the point where the song can barely be called, well, a "song" at all. Despite being of trashy quality, it does show a certain fearlessness in the band: the fact that they could unleash something so intense and harsh on their audience speaks for their musical bravery. Not that that makes the song any better. "Tell it to The Mountain" is possibly the least weird thing on the second side of the album, which isn't saying much. Consisting primarily of thumping rhythms played by Panda Bear and Avey Tare's undecipherable-as-ever vocals, the song a bit like a less intense version of "Forest Gospel", with the band showing minor restraint from going all-out.
a difficult listen? Hell, yes. Its impenetrable walls of noise and rhythms aren't likely to be enjoyed by those who loop "My Girls" all day, and even the most hardcore of fans may have trouble believing that this is the same band that released Feels
and Strawberry Jam
. But, there's a kind of joy and sense of accomplishment in finding out just what makes the album "tick". It can be a frustrating listen, but when the album rewards the listener with pieces of what most would consider "normal" music, the results are something else.