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by Justin Farrar

September 6, 2012

Animal Collective's Magical World

by Justin Farrar  |  September 6, 2012

Animal Collective's music beams so much boyish innocence and forever-young exuberance that it's easy to forget they're veteran sound voyagers who have been in full-blown exploration mode since the previous century (1999, to be exact). Stretching behind their new full-length, Centipede Hz, is a long, gnarled trail of albums, singles and EPs, plus their many solo endeavors, side projects and one-off collaborations.

In an attempt to make sense of all this wondrous stuff, I've programmed an Animal Collective playlist that spotlights both new and old music, as well as popular and obscure. It, of course, contains their most cherished tunes and concert favorites, from "Fireworks" and "Grass" to "Summertime Clothes" and "Peacebone." But also scattered throughout are numerous songs pulled from A.C.'s older releases: Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished, Danse Manatee (so underrated), Campfire Songs and Here Comes the Indian. With each having been credited to a variation of "Avey Tare and Panda Bear" (or, as is the case with that last title, no group name at all), these records came before the group started using the moniker Animal Collective with any regularity.

When it comes to side projects, the inclusion of several Panda Bear tunes is a no-brainer. After all, his is the most fashionable of the many entities orbiting Animal Collective like all those miniscule moons do the mighty Jupiter. In stark contrast to Panda's psychedelic-bubblegum nautica, Avey Tare's solo material has always been far more murky, creeped-out and abstruse. The same can be said of Terrestrial Tones, his bizarro collaboration with Eric Copeland of Black Dice. Equally eccentric, though less overtly freaky, is Pullhair Rubeye, a 2007 album with then-wife Kría Brekkan of múm fame.

As you might guess, I consider myself an Avey Tare kind of guy, his vision being more in line with my longtime love of noise-rock, lo-fi grit and cannibalized electronica. But I have to admit to absolutely loving Jane, Panda's long-forgotten tandem with DJ Scott Mou. The duo were way ahead of their time in terms of fusing minimal techno, New Age tropes and hippie-pop tribalism. The album Berserker, released in 2005, was definitely a sonic foundation for the subsequent synth-drone cassette movement and Not Not Fun scene.

Last but not least: remixes and production credits. This is one of them rabbit-hole subjects. Both collectively and solo, Animal Collective have accumulated an impressive number of them. Not wanting to overload the playlist, I include a modest sample. Essential are remixes of Ratatat's "Mirando" and Phoenix's "Love Like a Sunset," (the latter a product of Deakin's handiwork, primarily). There's also a track each from the groups First Nation (recorded and mixed by Deakin) and Prince Rama (again recorded by Deakin, with help from Avey Tare).

Note: I was lucky enough to see Animal Collective numerous times before they blew up, back when they played gigs in and around New York City for, like, 30 people at a time. I'm fairly certain either Geologist or Deakin released a limited-edition solo CD-R back then. Unfortunately, though, it's not available via Rhapsody, and I have been unable to find any information about such a thing. Oh well.

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