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coverpic flag US - Maryland - Full Moon 88 - 12/08/03

The Animal Collective
Spirit They're Gone Spirit They've Vanished / Danse Manatee
Fat Cat

You know that bit at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where the spirits emerge from the Ark and swim around the sky in a sea of dancing light - only to transform into flaming wraiths of death and destroy all in their path. Listening to The Animal Collective is a bit like that.

This is worth getting for the first album alone, the musings of Avey Tare, who handles all the instruments except the drums, which are beautifully played with brushes by Panda Bear. The prettiness of many of the songs is incredibly unnerving, even as they pass through each adeptly handled change, only occasionally dissolving into nightmarish screeching. The bogeyman atmosphere is further darkened by the subtle use of electronics, which lend an otherworldly feel to the storybook narratives of the songs.

There's an almost stream-of-consciousness feel to the album, yet all the twists and turns are so convincingly executed that you can't help feeling that it was something of a labour of love for Avey Tare. If I found myself making music so singular and arresting I'd pour my soul into it too. To use the stock music journalist technique of comparing the sound of the album to another artist, I'd have to say this sounds like a young Prince who grew up in a forest on a diet of mushrooms.

Danse Manatee, however, falls from the tightrope of crazy inspiration too many times to be truly engaging. There are some interesting sounds, partly attributable to the addition of The Geologist on electronics, but the longer tracks lack the depth of the more experimental material from Here Comes The Indian, its closest counterpart. "Ahhh Good Country" seems to be something of a blueprint from which they constructed the superbly atmospheric Campfire Songs album, but other than that I found few of the individual tracks particularly engaging, and the whole lacks cohesion.

I'd deem Spirit... an essential listen, simply because it's so evocative, pretty and strange. Danse Manatee serves as an interesting indicator of how The Animal Collective sound developed, but is pretty dispensable otherwise. But, as a 2-CD set it's well worth checking out.

Copyright © 2003 Tim Clarke e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Animal Collective articles/reviews: Centipede Hz, Feels, FloriDada, Here Comes the Indian, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Strawberry Jam, Sung Tongs, The Fillmore, San Francisco, Sunday 5 March 2006.

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