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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Animal Collective: Danse Manatee


1) A Manatee Dance; 2) Penguin Penguin; 3) Another White Singer (Little White Glove); 4) Essplode; 5) Meet The Light Child; 6) Runnin The Round Ball; 6) Bad Crumbs; 7) The Living Toys; 8) Throwin The Round Ball; 9) Ahhh Good Country; 10) Lablakely Dress; 11) In The Singing Box.

On their second album, the future Animal Collective are already a trio, adding "Geologist" (Brian Weitz) on extra keyboards. Since Geologist has gone on record saying that Danse Manatee is his favourite album from the team, I'm going to imply that the shift in sound from Spirit to what we have here has a lot to do with his honourable presence; but it isn't going to change my opinion on the record, which isn't exactly sugar and spice.

Spirit — like all seriously notable records by the band, be they good or bad — regardless of whe­ther you like it or not, mixed fairy-tale fantasy with avantgarde in a way that could be annoying and curious at the same time. But the basic idea behind Manatee is different; it's not "let us filter our child fancies through a net of electronic devices", but rather "let us filter whatever comes into our heads at any given moment through a net of electronic devices, utilizing the most astounding and unusual sounds we can produce in our bedroom". And, since in the best of both worlds the most astounding and unusual sounds are also, quite frequently, the most unlistenable ones, the results are predictable. They're also more boring than they used to be.

There's not even the tiniest ounce of melody; worse, there's not even the tiniest ounce of captiva­ting atmosphere. There's a lot of pssh-pssh noises, and a lot of brrr-brrr noises, and a lot of jing-whee-fjjjrr-kllllng-wshwshwsh-pooka-pooka noises, and, of course, plenty of stuff to make your dog wish for stronger animal protection laws to be enforced on its owner. Sometimes they try to sing over it, but it doesn't help matters much, because they have these high frequencies all over the place that make it feel like you're listening to painfully low-quality MP3 recordings, and, instead of tuning in on the vocals, I just tune in to my subconscious desire to rip all that torturous whistling and wheezing out of the track.

Granted, all of this is slightly more diverse than Metal Machine Music, but it doesn't have a much larger point, either, belonging to the same category of artistic statement. The only redee­ming quality is Panda Bear's percussion work, in the good old avantgarde tradition of all the King Crimson drummers and suchlike; if not for that, there would hardly be anything here that would distinguish the results from, I'm guessing, millions of crazyass experimental recordings done by millions of kids in their millions of bedrooms all over the world. Nevertheless, if you are into extreme frequencies — for instance, if you believe that God abides in extreme frequencies, and the only way to get close to God is to attune your ears to the unattunable — Danse Manatee may be a revelation. But I rather prefer to think that God abides in 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da', so, unsur­prisingly, this one gets a thumbs down without thinking thrice.

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