ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: HERE COMES THE INDIAN (2003)
1) Native Belle; 2) Hey Light; 3) Infant Dressing Table; 4) Panic; 5) Two Sails On A Sound; 6) Slippi; 7) Too Soon.
When trying to appreciate total freak-out pieces of "music", the important thing is whether your mind is able to attach any kind of coherent picture to any of them. The sound of the Animal Collective can generally be described as "kaleidoscopic", but kaleidoscopes eventually — in fact, pretty soon — become tremendously boring in their predictable unpredictability, and instead of the usual chaotic glimmer and glow you begin to yearn for more precise imagery.
Here Comes The Indian seems to be the first truly "focused" album by the band, or, at least, the first after their psycho-fairy style debut effort. Maybe it is no coincidence that it is also the first record officially credited to "The Animal Collective" — as opposed to earlier efforts which just listed the members by name, as if each were doing his thing without giving a damn about whether it fit in with what the others were churning out at the same time or not. Of course, from a "melodic" or "harmonic" point of view, it is still utter crap. But there are signs of change and, perhaps, even growing up without killing off the child within.
Basically, Here Comes The Indian just happens to match its title. In small parts, it even reminds me of such classic "tribalistic" efforts as the Residents' Eskimo: filtering the essence of native, shamanistic harmonies through the avantgarde minds of thoroughly modern meta-artists. Except, of course, that the Animal Collective, with their limited means of existence and, perhaps, a somewhat shallower view of "authenticity", are not interested in mixing real Indian motives with their electrononsense, but are fully content with their own take on "The Indian". But that's OK, we can forgive them for that. There's too much unnecessary "authenticity" in the world these days anyway — why not replace it with fantasy from time to time?
All seven tracks represent "aggressively ambient" sonic panoramas, captured in much better quality than Campfire Songs (even though it still took them about three days in total to do this), and most of them can indeed be viewed as representing various tribal activities — war dances around the campfire, ritual chanting while harvesting the crops, and even the sonic equivalent of a ferocious brave attack ('Panic'). Wedged in between are all sorts of nature panoramas — superficially peaceful, but loaded with potential danger. Only one track, 'Slippi', might even be called a "song", but it's short, overproduced, and so full of tribalism like the others that it might take you a long time before you start calling it that.
I felt more depth, diversity, and excitement in this record than in all of the AC's previous efforts put together (yes, including even Spirit), and not because there really is more depth and diversity — primarily because there is a sense of purpose which lets me through the veils to experience the depth and diversity. I cannot say I like it, of course: it does nothing to sharpen my basic emotions. But there is something formally grand about it; in fact, when you think all of its paintings were recorded in three days, in all their complexity, it's hard not to harbour any respect for the band. The intellectual part of me, therefore, calls for a decisive thumbs up — first time! — even as the heart still refuses to budge. But, let's face it, even if it is shit, it's a kind of shit that at least deserves to be heard.