ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: FALL BE KIND (2009)
1) Graze; 2) What Would I Want? Sky; 3) Bleed; 4) On A Highway; 5) I Think I Can.
While not the first Animal Collective EP to contain original material, Fall Be Kind was the first one to cross over the 25-minute mark and cautiously approach LP length level, meaning that it probably merits a few words of its own.
Strictly formally, this is not much of an «advance» on their previous record. Now that they'd finally found the perfect middle ground between psychedelia, hooliganry, and pop, they are sticking to it, and my best guess is they will probably keep sticking to it, provided they do not want to regress back to «cult phenomenon» status. But this time around it truly looks as if they are running quite high on confidence, too — there is a certain «now we do know what we are doing» whiff round all this.
'Graze' opens the proceedings with such an intense celestial sound that it comes across as some sort of Heavenly Overture, and the whole twenty-eight minute experience can be conveniently assigned to the genre of «Electronic Oratorio» (as opposed to «Electronic Symphony» of the previous outing — with the emphasis on religious connotations, of course). "Let me begin", the vocals come in, "feels good 'cause it's early, ease open my eyes and let light in". Who wrote these lyrics — Jon Anderson? Indeed, there are quite a few lyrical and musical parallels with the classic, idealistic prog-rock style that can be suggested. Condense Tales From Topographic Oceans into one half-hour, cut out most of the soloing wankery, replace most instruments with electronic gadgets, add a small chunk of Beach Boys harmonies, a little tinge of the Frisco spirit (one of the songs actually samples the Grateful Dead), and there you are.
Besides, we now know exactly what these guys want — just refer to the title of track No. 2. We probably knew it at least as far back as Sung Tongs, but it is possible that they did not know it back then. The EP is an intentional statement of purpose: what used to be groping around in the dark, testing the aural effects of each of the miriad of new sonic waves they were able to synthesize, has finally paid off, and now they are pushing forward this new brand of musical religion. Celestial sound tones, trance-inducing rhythms, ever more complicated choir overdubs to give you a definite feeling of floating in the stratosphere with them angels swooping up and down and left and right all around you, and lyrics that make about as much sense as they used to but are given a more and more «sanctified» coating.
This brings us back to the old question of whether these guys have, or if they did not have, whether they have managed to finally find, «soul» — or, to put it differently, are they still putting us on with this grand, but meaningless, spectacle or have the sounds that they are putting out ended up converting them, too? If someone like myself is still unable to fall under their spell — fully able to appreciate the complexity and excitement of what they are doing, but unable to experience anything even remotely close to a cathartic emotion — does that mean they are still doing something wrong, or is it just me? Or could it be that the pointless hooliganry of their early period has shut off my receptacles, so that even if they become the Bach Collective in a few years, the whole thing will still ring somewhat hollow and artificial?
Not clear. Whatever be, it is certain that Fall Be Kind is one of their most accessible creations, and that if its loops, rings, bells, chorals, and words do not exercise their magic on you, it is no use even trying to bother working your way back through the catalog. Thumbs up out of sheer amazement at how firmly they have established their own Church of Heaven, but I do not think I am quite ready to subscribe as of yet.