It would be a stretch to call Animal Collective's prismatic tapestries formulaic, but patterns -- really trippy ones -- emerge. Murky and mirthful sounds are poured into the band's psychedelic cauldron, bubbling up and eventually bursting forth with a buoyant vibrancy, chirpy pop songs disguised as experimental sound collages. The debut solo album by Animal Collective core member Avey Tare (a.k.a. Dave Portner) fits neatly into the band's discography but also distinguishes itself from the rest of the Baltimore-bred group's work, particularly last year's mainstream breakthrough, "Merriweather Post Pavilion."
The same core ingredients are present on "Down There," but instead of emerging geyserlike, they ooze and drip out, creating a sound that's filled with foreboding but stops just short of being sinister. It's not nearly as fun but almost as fulfilling. Singsongy chants and angelic backing vocals remain Tare's calling card, but they are more garbled and muffled than ever. And when you can make out what he's saying, it's even bleaker. "I must have wrapped you up and left you hanging upside down/But I was too busy getting lost in/The big sound," he wails on "Laughing Hieroglyphic," one of many songs that could be about his recent divorce.
Fleeting moments of giddiness poke through the swampy sounds, but even these are restrained. Although a straightforward beat threatens to break out, a stilted, herky-jerky rhythm keeps the pace in "Head's Hammock." There's no heart-racing crescendo in "3 Umbrellas," the brightest and bounciest track here, just a gentle, glowing gallop. It's an album for patient listeners, who will unearth plenty of subtle sonic pleasures as they poke around in these dark corners.
--David Malitz, Oct. 26, 2010