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The Animal Collective
Here Comes the Indian
The Animal Collective aren't out of the woods just yet. In fact, judging by the sonic menagerie they deploy on Here Comes the Indian, you might conclude that these four young Brooklynites have forged a permanent residency pact with Ma Nature herself. Album opener "Native Belle" begins with a ratchety rhythm, clusters of fragmented acoustic guitar, and distant vocals that evoke Ocora Records' old Aka Pygmy collections, but it quickly shifts into something vaguely resembling a pop song: The Collective's Avey Tare croons like an anime raccoon over the stop-start latticework of silly strings, beautifully inhuman vocals, extravagantly spiritual electronics, and the Panda Bear's rip-snorting percussion. It's what post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys might have sounded like if Brian Wilson had gone native instead of nuts.
The group's pop psychedelia thread continues on "Slippi," which sounds as though it could be the hopped-up grandchild of the Rolling Stones "She's a Rainbow" echoing through the orchids of a ruined Mayan city while spider monkeys look on, bedazzled. But it's when the Animal Collective wax abstract that their beast flesh blossoms at its fullest. You'd swear a chorus of ducks and tiger cubs was augmenting the warm electronic pulses, swelling guitars, and heavily processed monosyllabic vocals on "Infant Dressing Table," especially after the cosmic rays fade and the track segues into its mirror image, "Panic." The latter song's title doesn't refer to the feeling you get when an alarm goes off as you pass through an airport checkpoint; it's the sound of the above critters, joined by cows, birds, whales, overt electronics, and an imposing assembly of chanting humans, all celebrating the festival of Pan. If it weren't for the electronics, both tracks would sound like the week before the dawn of civilization. As it is, they sound like something from a few years after its end.
Which is the coolest thing about the Animal Collective: Unlike their aural and philosophical antecedents, who range from Tyrannosaurus Rex and Can to the Residents and Crash Worship, or even more aggressive peers like Black Dice and Wolf Eyes, they're not particularly interested in creating what writer Hakim Bey calls "Temporary Autonomous Zones"--areas where, for a short time, the mechanisms of a brutal society do not apply. Instead, they're post-apocalyptic in the very best way. Eschewing ersatz ethnicity and the gaudy trappings of phony tribalism, the Animal Collective celebrate the moment when we have advanced beyond civilization as we know it now, after the forces of good have triumphed, and everyone from elephants to sea cucumbers is having a really good time. (Humans too, for whom life is sort of like The House at Pooh Corner, only with sex and weed.) Ladies and gentlemen, the new Golden Age starts here.
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