By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Danse Manatee (2001, Catsup Plate)
now available on FatCat as a two-CD set
3 1/2 paw prints
Originally credited to Avey Tare and Panda Bear (plus the Geologist on DM), this finds Syd Barrett's madcap progeny laughing in a forest clearing as they create blissful, sprawling pop-noise. Acoustic guitars dovetail with brushed drums and pixie-dust synths, sometimes tipping into needling frequencies. Silken strands of Echo and the Bunnymen, Incredible String Band, and My Bloody Valentine are glimpsed. Relocating to NYC for Manatee, the boys are being difficult, replacing the pop with more enervating electric noise. Improvisation and spontaneous song creation are the modus operandi here.
Hollinndagain (2001, St. Ives)
3 paw prints
Hand-painted and stickered, this limited-edition live album has long been gone. It's a fascinating document from their first U.S. tour, on which you can hear them blow-darting the third eyes of witnesses as they baffle punk crowds with blasts of noise, haunting crackle, murmured mantras and screamed outbursts. To be reissued this year.
Here Comes the Indian (2003, Paw Tracks)
4 paw prints
The first record as the Animal Collective and their first as a quartet. Dense, electronic foliage is impenetrable at first, but subsequent listens reveal bits of catchy song ("Hey Light," "Slippi") camouflaged among hypnotic passages ("Two Sails on a Sound"). Difficult but rewarding.
Campfire Songs (2003, Catsup Plate)
3 1/2 paw prints
A beguiling counterpoint to the electric soundscapes of Indian, this all-acoustic set is full of atmospheric wanderings in the countryside. Pastoral and enchanting, it anticipates their collaboration with Vashti Bunyan.
Sung Tongs (2004, Fat Cat)
4 1/2 paw prints
Stripped back to a duo again, Avey Tare and Panda Bear return to their by turns catchy and explosive pop. The epic strums and slurs of "Visiting Friends" even evoke the dreamy blurs of ambient pop. Elsewhere there is tribalism, all ecstatic hoots and thudding drums.