Review Summary: Everything you loved and hated about MPP, manipulated, reducted, and translated by Avey Tare.7 of 7 thought this review was well written
David Portner is the most mysterious man in Animal Collective. This notion isn't obvious, especially seeing as Avey Tare's lead vocals and bubbly personality make their presence on nearly every AC release. He's the life of their performances, gleefully howling and dancing to the music he clearly enjoys making. However, it's hard to define him from a musical perspective: The Geologist(Brian Weitz) is the designated electronics man, Panda Bear(Noah Lennox) the Brian Wilson of the group, always considered to be the songwriting mastermind behind the band. Portner epitomizes the "collective" part of the group, jubilantly switching from tweaking knobs to strumming on a guitar within songs. When his solo release was announced, a blend of AC-related techniques and a plethora of endearing vocal quirks is basically what could be expected. Down There
manages to both defy and embrace these expectations simultaneously.
It's important to note that this is
an Avey Tare record. It's devoid of dual harmonies and band interplay. Another immediate quality is that it's frankly quite dark; his vocals no longer entail optimistic, reverberated non-sequiturs, but heavily filtered, cryptic tales over murky backdrops. It's not so much the actual lyrics, but rather the perspective they're told from, much in the vein of the first verse from the opener of Merriweather Post-Pavillion
. Down There
is an album of scenarios, each beat and loop determining the mood. "Laughing Hieroglyphic" and "Oliver Twist" display psychedelic monologues, while "3 Umbrellas" and "Heather in The Hospital" are the designated feel-good songs of the record, incorporating Portner's signature child-like descriptions. It's also relevant that these are Portner's songs, as his personality shines with the lack of backing vocals. What's even better is the amount of diversity on here, songs ranging from echoing drone monsters, to heavy rhythmic tracks. The LP appears to retain the vibes and textures of Merriweather Post-Pavillion
, whilst clearing itself of MPP's homogeneity, stripping itself down to an easy thirty-five minutes, as opposed to an hour.
The instrumentation manages to surpass Portner's vocal performance in terms of memorability. The album draws a heavy influence from electronic music, the production at times sounding reminiscent of darker dubstep. Down There
has a lot of the similar bubbling textures on MPP, lots of synthesized loops and repetition. However as textural as this music is, the actual production is incredibly minimal. The LP is admirably smooth, never surpassing maybe 3 or 4 layers per song. The beats are infectious, often being accompanied by warm bass loops and oscillating synthesizers. The production brings a liveliness that would otherwise leave Portner lost in a haze of vocal effects. One of the few duds of the record is that the distorted vocals sometimes reach a point of inaccessibility, deterring the songwriting with endless indulgence. However, while the record does reach peaks of incoherency, the freedoms of recording a solo project grace the record with a lovable personality. Down There
is Portner's perspective of Animal Collective, Merriweather Post-Pavillion
reducted and ran through a sequencer.