Record Review by Michael Byrne
Feels is the music of wildness, the music of community, a sound window to a parallel place where we may pause for a moment and scream our love into our lover's ear. And in this parallel place we pull each other down onto the concrete, into the grass, and the bustling street crowd above stops and howls for one moment in celebration. When it's over, we should be left in envy, left longing, left needing to know what exactly Animal Collective figured out about us people.
Replace Feels with Animal Collective because this is nothing new: this is a band name so appropriate it seems redundant to put it on the album cover, even more so here. (Fun fact: Animal Collective toured anonymously until 2003, when their record label chose the name.) With this recording they've stepped into the dark wood even further than on Sung Tongs, their prior disc. Geologist, the bands sound manipulator, has left much of this album alone, whereas Sung Tongs was glitchy and woven with samples, selectively appropriating a pop style and breaking it apart. It had a similar feel to the Books' Thought For Food, another masterpiece of intricacy and sampling. And, like the Books, Animal Collective was a two-man project when Sung Tongs was recorded, and accordingly, that disc has a smaller, more individualistic, sound. Shortly after the one minute mark of Feels, the chorus joins in, and we know something's different; this is a vast polyphony that, still, rarely loses personality in it's tightly directed chaos of soaring voices and tribal drums.
Until recently, Animal Collective toured in costume: Geologist, Panda Bear, Avey Tare, and Deakan. But, like the band name, costumes have become unnecessary. Everything wild about this band is transmitted through music. This is nowhere more evident than on "Banshee Beat," an eight minute juxtaposition between caged guitar and snare and anarchic hoots and howls. So much of this disc seems to fall into that structure, and Avey Tare's voice conveys it marvelously. When it isn't arcing above our heads, grazing buildings and rustling leaves, it sounds strained, nearly panicked.
I suspect I'm not the only one that will find this disc uncomfortably relatable. Call it city panic: anxiety of predictability. To hear David Portner's (Avey Tare) voice strain against the rigid percussion of "Banshee Beat" and towards the howls beyond is to the know debit cards, bus schedules, pet stores, time clocks, blue screens, TV Weather, the electoral college, levees, jet planes, antidepressants, police cordons, birth control, tab sheets, and the fact that your lover for the next two long blocks is going to stare ahead into the street crowd and talk about an article she read about a physics theory that describes everything everywhere perfectly, but only in numbers.
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Animal Collective - Live - September 18, 2007
More by this writer:
Four Tet / Jamie Lidell - Live - October 1, 2005
The Dead Science - Frost Giant
Xiu Xiu - Interview