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Animal Collective - Here Comes the Indian

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Artist: Animal Collective

Album: Here Comes the Indian

Label: Paw Tracks

Review date: Jun. 20, 2003

A Collective Consciousness

Of late, it seems that psychedelic music of all kinds has been making a resurgence across the globe. Be it the over-the-top Acid Mothers Temple of Japan, the rerelease / resurfacing of Swedish Trad Gras och Stenar albums or blazing Americans Comets on Fire. I wonder if contemporary circumstances (International conflict, severe acute illnesses) are such that psychedelia has been able to insinuate itself back into our collective conscious? Maybe it never left. Political, social and cultural upheavals of previous eras have spawned some amazing art and the present time may be equally definitive. New York City’s Animal Collective (Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deaken and the Geologist) comprise a unique psychedelic unit. Existing without any noticeable political or critical agenda, they instead focus on creating physical and intellectual space (musical and otherwise) where their stories are told. A 21st century self-referential folklore that one need not understand (or attempt to understand) to fully enjoy their music. The Collective have finally recorded an electric album as a full group (a live album predated it) and produced Here Comes the Indian, released on their own Paw Tracks label.

The music of the Collective is certainly psychedelic – achieving its literal aims of “distortions of perception” and “altered states of awareness.” Live, this aura is further perpetuated as the group don face paint and masks, conjuring up a more playful take on D & D mysticism. A sense of transcendence, or the inevitability thereof, is always a part of the experience – dynamics vary with such speed and detail that it’s impossible not to feel miniature discoveries wait around the corner. Their music drifts freely from the delicate vocal and guitar flourishes of Avey, to the spastic electronic dissonance created by Deaken and the Geologist. Panda switches his drumming to fit the circumstance: lightly tapping his high hat or alternately freaking out high-voltage on the kit and igniting madness. The Collective have grafted these shamanistic live elements onto Here Comes the Indian to a wonderful effect. The album follows a trajectory similar to that of their performances, emitting a variety of ethereal sounds in the familiar forms of wilderness tones and city signals.

The album opens barely audible with “Native Belle.” Quiet shakers emerge before a whiny vocal squall, guitar and drums overpower the rhythmic tic. A noticeable give and take between silence and noise sets the brain in motion, tapping us into the subconscious animal vein. “Belle” is a primer of sorts, a symbolic opening of the gates. “Hey Light” changes the pace quickly as the group trades yells and eventually starts in on a twisted tropical bent. The lyrics (when discernable) here are simple but seem odd in the context of the blurred chaos going on about them – “Hey light / I forgot to work today.” This seems to be what makes the Collective’s music so appealing; the ability to take the simple or mundane and oversaturate it, inject new life and view it fresh. These moments of swirling confusion also crop up “shippi”, a crazy ditty that sounds like a fucked-up Sesame Street song. The closer “Too Soon” walks what might be the most satisfying line between deep alpha-wave bliss and overloaded hallucination. Avey’s vocals (and most of the instruments) are stacked thick with swaths of chorus and delay as they build and fall apart, finally petering out in blissful withdrawal.

These moments of ecstatic serotonin immersion are tempered with some more pristine segments. “Infant Dressing Table” unfolds from a simple sequence of electronic beeps, sounding like the best hearing test you’ve ever taken. Avey’s treated voice shifts in and out of phase with the digital pulse. “Two Sails on a Sound” is an anti-gravity hymn – an anchored piano drone with anxious drum rumbling and scary analog noises passing through its atmosphere.

What stands out most about Here Comes the Indian is the unified Animal Collective sound – despite sonically peeking into every corner imaginable, the explorations are all done consistently and thoughtfully. Its ineffable likeability evidences their brilliant abstract idiosyncrasies, the altered perceptions that define it as psychedelic. To listen to it over and over again is to revisit a thousand fleeting epiphanies. A luxury that not many albums can speak to these days.

By Marc Gilman

Other Reviews of Animal Collective

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Strawberry Jam

Water Curses

Merriweather Post Pavilion

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Find out more about Paw Tracks

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