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Avey Tare

Down There

[Domino; 2010]

By ; October 25, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

How do you follow up a massively successful album, both commercially and critically, like Merriweather Post Pavilion? Well, if you’re Dave Portner – or Avey Tare, as he’s best known – you might consider releasing your debut solo album. Reversed and backwards side project with his wife aside, this is Avey’s first album released without at least one of the Animal Collective boys with him. With the ever-shifting nature of Animal Collective’s music being in a constant state of fluctuation, the sound that Tare would adopt on his solo album was the source of much discussion: would it sound like Animal Collective? Or would it sound like something altogether different?

Well, these questions can now be answered! In truth, Down There sounds like a mildly successful indulgence for Tare; an album both simultaneously rewarding and alienating, and one that Tare most likely had a lot of fun creating. What this isn’t, however, is a good Animal Collective album: although it doesn’t sound far detached from their recent sampler-based music, it lacks standout tracks like the recent “Summertime Clothes” or “My Girls.”

Although nobody would want a carbon-copy repeat of these singles – Animal Collective are all about moving forwards – it’s surprising how rooted in the past Tare appears to be on much of Down There. “3 Umbrellas” sounds like Feels-era Animal Collective with a spot of Strawberry Jam’s “Derek” shining through: all playful melodies and lyric-less vocal harmonies. Avey has sounded remarkably like Panda Bear occasionally in the past, but this is one of the greatest demonstrations of the similarities of their voices. They differ when Avey exerts his more aggressive voice, which is done wonderfully in the album opener, “Laughing Hieroglyphic.” On top of a rattle-snake drum loop there’s a bouncy tune with Tare’s strained voice peeking through. What the song lacks, however, is any particular development: it sounds mostly the same near the end to how it begins, a criticism that can be directed at most of Down There.

Most songs begin slowly, with distorted voices that eventually flow into the melody. This doesn’t need to be used more than once or twice, and yet Tare seems to have fallen in love with this method of creating tracks. The effect was done on “Bleed” on the Fall Be Kind EP with a better ending result. Other tracks fail to progress as much as they should. “Glass Bottom Boat,” a short instrumental track, seems like a wasted effort, making the listener expect a pay-off that never arrives.

There’s simply not a huge amount to recommend on Tare’s first solo release. There are no instantly recognisable songs that fans will be shouting out for at concerts. This album desperately needed a “Fireworks” or a “Grass,” or anything in the way of a catchy tune. On a personal level, it would have been nice to see a return to Avey’s older days, where he played guitars and sang about dark, nursery-rhyme filled worlds. Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished was mostly written by Avey, proving that he can write without Animal Collective behind him. However, based on Down There alone, we have to hope that this isn’t the future of Animal Collective’s sound, merely an inoffensive pet-project gone slightly awry.


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