Avey Tare and Panda Bear, gods of noise folk, founding members of Animal Collective and two weird ass dudes in every sense of the word. The two first came together with the sparse, but loveable Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished. With Panda (Noah Lennox) on Drums and Avey (Dave Portner) on guitar and vocals the New York born boys were a match made in heaven. They mixed the wild and freaky noise of early Flaming Lips with strange folk music undertones to create something entirely new to the public. The music is purely experimental and comically awkward, in that every song is a further departure from modern music's time tested system. There are strange gurgles of fuzz and so much white noise you begin to believe you are listening to nothing at all but the birds and bees swimming through the flowers like fish in an ocean of noise. Each track is laced with a strange child-like curiosity and an even more bothersome lack of intensity from each member. Panda's drumming is spastic at best, but uncontrollable when in full force. He recalls many of the jazz greats with his slightly muffled fills and brushed snare drum hits. Then Davey is a whole other story, with his warbling vocals and swirling melodies he is surely an angel of some sort. But nay, AT&PB are as affiliated with Satan as they are with god.
But I suppose you wouldn't know by the bouncy, heavily effected noises of tunes like La Rapet. The song presents the listener with very sullen emotions in throughout its vivid jungle-like sound. Panda accents everything with fairly progressive brush drumming. His little fills can be lost within the noise, but work well through the entire song, whether you can hear them or not. The reason this band is not instantly categorized as a folk band is obvious, but can be a bit baffling when you get to listening deeper. The lyrics are very folky in that whether they are at all realistic, they tell stories. And oh the stories they tell, of everything from spirits and animals (with loads of personification) to relationships and modern living. All accented by various instruments not normally found in the neighborhood Guitar Center. Though folk music remains at the heart of every band in the slightly over hyped Freak Folk genre for Animal Collective it's a bit more shrouded in mystery if you will. The guitars are also slightly folky, with a lonely twang beneath layers of fuzz and chorus and a beautiful feeling of freedom and spirit between every second of ambience. The folk influence has become almost impending in tracks like Penny Dreadfuls, the melodies play on a child's orchestral music box and the electronics skitter about like ants on peanut butter. A heavy piano line takes the place of the classic acoustic guitar giving the song a very romanticized drama. The chorus becomes ever present with the beating of Bear's drums and song bird esque vocals from Avey.
Though the CD is far from lo-fi, the production is fairly dismal. The levels all seem to be wrong; the music is incredibly quiet, almost whispery, while the vocals are even worse. The only thing that seems to jump out at the listener is the plethora of noise. Like I said before, everything about this sound is shrouded in mystery. At bare bones it's a folk album, but at bare bones no one would want to listen to it. The experimental qualities and curious nature of the music is what makes this album so superb. The music is child-like, but the style is very refined, with hints of jazz here and bits of punk there. Animal Collective are one of the most interesting bands making music these days, and Spirit They're Gone is a great CD for any AC fan to check out. Not as a first glance, but maybe a second of third. One of the best experimental albums of the 21st century and certainly one of the most fun. In short, Avey Tare and Panda Bear are brilliant.
Pretty good review. I think this is a very good record for anyone interested in the development of Animal Collective through their history. I think it is a good record on it's own, but I find it more interesting as the beginning of their winding path to their current expertise at experimental pop songwriting. It is not nearly as accessible as Sung Tongs, Feels, or even Campfire Songs for that matter, but it is a really good record.
A few quick things: It might be good to note that this album is re-released under the Animal Collective moniker, even though it was originally released as Avey Tare & Panda Bear.
Also, Panda Bear's first name is Noah, not Noel, and I've rarely heard Dave Portner referred to as Davey, usually David or Dave, but I have seen Davey once or twice, so it's probably fine.
Ah I just realized I never voted for this as well written. It was a really good review, and I've been checking back hoping more people have written. I kinda just think a) people don't know that Avey Tare & Panda Bear from Animal Collective, and b) A lot who do know that probably have never heard this record.
Keep up the good work! I really enjoy your reviews.