Like it or not‚ Animal Collective have shimmied and drifted their way to the forefront of the modern‚ digital psychedelic scene -- stop waiting for the Floyd reunion and embrace it already. While the extensions and limits of the band are intentionally blurred‚ Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) was still able to create a unique voice for himself when he released Person Pitch in 2007. Now with Down There‚ his wave-smashing cohort Avey Tare (David Portner) is able to do the same. Not nearly as beat-friendly as his peer‚ Down There is essentially a 9 part sendoff of looping crunches and transcendent melodies‚ all structured as one constant‚ unified piece. The draw is Portner's inherent ability to make both incoherent lyrical phrases and redundant musical frames fully engaging to even the casual ear -- a skill that if were lacking would leave this album inconsequential and sonically buried under early 90's Moby discs.
Opening with "Laughing Hieroglyphic‚" laser drips mold with an accordion groove that in some twisted way is incredibly welcoming. Perhaps it's the equally rough and elegant longing in his vocals on the track‚ which seem to find a familiar tone somewhere between David Byrne and Ghostface Killah. The tune pans into "3 Umbrellas‚" which really never gets anywhere but presents the trance vibe that continues to raise its head throughout the album. And by saying "trance" I by no means refer to the traditional techno moniker of the term‚ but rather to the brain-stem massaging type that finds you drooling on yourself when the sun comes through your window just right on a Sunday afternoon.
"Oliver Twist" will have your musical-reference-lacking friends claiming that it sounds like Frank Zappa on LSD‚ but in this case they might be exactly right. However‚ by the time the straight soundscape of "Glass Bottom Boat" arises‚ the Brian Eno references will no longer be able to be denied. Despite whatever alternative names Portner might claim as an influence‚ the boundless directions for sound and rhythm are something only Eno has been able to do with equal success. It wouldn't even be out of line to say that the boys in Animal Collective are able to add some spryly needed warmth to the Eno game-plan.
There are darker moments‚ and they do come across as intentionally less-welcoming than moments you've encountered on A.C. albums before. And no doubt it is rather morbid that the most easily intelligible lyrics come in a song about visiting his dying sister in the hospital. But as a whole‚ the album comes across as a cycle of confident emotions and no pocket is dark enough to last more than 30 seconds anyway. "Heather in the Hospital" itself is coupled with "Lucky 1‚" which is easily the most uplifting moment on the album. With a groove akin to some sort of spaceship life-support system throbbing under lofty vocals‚ "Lucky 1" is another moment of stereophonic glory from one of the A.C. crew. A solid headphone session is highly recommended.