Animal Collective

Fall Be Kind EP

(Domino; 2009)

By Alan Baban | 1 December 2009

I get the feeling I’m going to be writing a lot of reviews like this. Animal Collective continue to put out really stunning material, but besides saying the material’s really stunning, I’m sort of at a loss. At some point the inevitable will happen and this band (like all bands) will take one massive dump. All I’m saying is that the longer they put out material of this quality, the harder it’s going to be to duck. When they dump. I don’t think I’m going to duck in time.

So…let’s start this again. Fall Be Kind is another welcome addition to what now plays as this decade’s most incalculable career arc. Who’d have thought the guys caught banging mud bricks in some remote backwoods locale would emerge as the conquering, undeniably global force they’ve become since around Strawberry Jam (2007)? That album, like the best stuff on Feels (2005), found them honing their own special turbulence into something like a promise of action. We waited. Then Merriweather Post Pavilion dropped and…now they model for PETA.

What next for our beloved favourite band? Will Geologist bust out the farfisa and start soundtracking National Geographic? Will Avey get his own cooking show? Does a Deakin remix of an awesome Phoenix jam even count as a quote-unquote Animal Collective remix? Is Panda Bear the next Bono? Though I sometimes get the impression from people who adore him that Noah Lennox is of nothing if not of some great polar expanse, childlike and pure, untainted by us people of dirt, I know he is at the same time totally fucking serious about providing us with jams. “My Girls” and “Brothersport” being jams. “I Think I Can,” the track here most indebted to the rhythmic clapper-traps on Person Pitch (2007), is another addition to the best new A/C song list. You know, the track that typically starts out like an asskicker then kicks ass all the way to some far-out planet, where it hops around and spacewalks and generally vomits unnatural purity all the way to the end. Here that end is the whole band singing a round, whoop-whooping through the mantra “I think I can move on now!”

“What Would I Want? Sky” is split in half. The first idles, two jet engines starting up, which is to say that the band gets to play its trick of panning a semi-thawed distortion across channels until the reverb thaws it out and we’re—bang!—into pure light joy. Much has been made of the second half of this song, reportedly the first time a Grateful Dead sample’s been passed by that band’s remaining members. The Glow’s own Dave Goldstein, who at this point probably knows more about the Dead than the people still in the Dead, tells all: “It’s a two-second clip of the dude who barely ever sings lead, from an obscure (at least to those outside of the circle) song.” And I guess it is sort of fucking funny. Because in another time and place I could imagine Avey Tare beast-humming that two-second clip and calling it a tribute. Now it’s more like a bizarre demonstration of his band’s power, not only in its ability to inspire, but in how it can ingest any number of influences and still produce something great that basically sounds nothing like those influences. Kind of like when Panda Bear thanked Jay-Z in the liner notes of Person Pitch. “What Would I Want? Sky” sounds nothing like the Grateful Dead. It sounds like something that’s going to get a lot of kids hair-swinging and hula-hooping. It sounds heart-shaped, basically. And though Animal Collective could probably be providing seminar handouts on this sort of shit, the effect is still sustained and joyous. It’s a weight-lifting moment when Avey sends his vocals ‘round the curve and you stop and think to yourself how this dood used to be a screeching fringe thing. He even makes time for a coupla jokes, like “stop daydreaming dood!”

Less cute and more on the sad paranoid side is when he cops to “being jealous of Noah’s dreaming” on this band’s first tour bus jam, “On a Highway.” There’s also the mid-EP cool-down song (“Bleed”) which includes the interaction of Panda and Avey getting ESP signals off each other and letting off some intertwined vocals to de-stress. You know: eccentric hippies. “Graze” telegraphs The Jungle Book, but in a good way.

Fall Be Kind doesn’t exactly break past the barriers set by this year’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, but it is an excellent extension of the ethos captured by that particular record. It’s fun and freewheeling and adheres, pretty much, to zero rules—with the slim caveat that, yes, and though it is grim and strange to say this, we’ve heard it all before. This still indulges in electronics like Merriweather did, albeit with more acoustic flourishes here and there (the drum hits that pepper “On a Highway”) as well as a more subdued sense of emotion. This, as the title seems to suggest, is an autumn EP. You have no need to duck yet; it sounds great. That is a good thing. Did I mention that I love this band?