Down There, the first solo album from Animal Collective's Avey Tare (except for a collaborative album with his wife, múm's Kría Brekkan), is naturally going to remind listeners of a quieter, more plaintive Animal Collective LP. That's not to say that Tare (aka Dave Portner), the group's primary writer, is a folkie singer/songwriter at heart, content to strum away at his guitar and sing about his feelings. Down There is virtually as experimental as Animal Collective. The beats are adventurous, sometimes so aqueous and damp that you can feel the splash, other times pin-point sharp. The rest of the musical backing is hazy and nearly unidentifiable, except when tones that are bell-like or chime-like rise above. Tare is similarly adventurous with his vocals, often multi-tracking and sampling it until his voice becomes just another element of the swampy, murky production. The obvious reference point here, aside from Animal Collective itself, would be his bandmate Panda Bear's 2007 album Person Pitch, one of the most critically praised records of the year. Down There reveals that Avey Tare and Panda Bear have very similar musical visions, a function of the supportive nature of their record-making (both together and apart). Tare isn't simply the songwriter/vocalist and Panda Bear the soundscape creator in some sort of Ferry/Eno dichotomy. Person Pitch proved that Panda Bear has an ear for melody, and Tare's Down There has not only the same woodsy, pixilated folk-pop of AC but also much of its fractured production smarts. Still, quiet and reflective where Animal Collective has become epic and dense, the album is unique, a mellow gem of experimental folk.
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David Portner, aka Avey Tare of Animal Collective, has always had a fascination with horror movies. So it makes sense his first truly solo album is decked out in black and green with a spooky looking crocodile skull on the front. Which is not too far from what one might see in their head while listening to Down There. The atmosphere is foggy and thicker than pea soup, there are dark and wobbly vocal effects aplenty, and the sounds and instrumentals used to back each track were clearly born in a different, scarier world. But it's not all doom and gloom. The first song, "Laughing Hieroglyphic" is probably my personal favorite of the album. There's nothing but gurgly voices and sounds before a whippy drum beat in a sparse 6/8 time signature smacks you from out of nowhere. Expecting a darker turn my first listen, I was pleasantly surprised to hear what sounds like an accordion suddenly burst out from behind the doors, turning the song into a grimey, spritely New Orleans-flavored piece. Once Avey starts singing, the song begins shaping up as a good summary of the album's sound as a whole: Very ghostly, moody, and dark with quick flashes of more upbeat material. It doesn't feature particularly fantastic songwriting and the songs here aren't really all that extraordinary but it's a real nice surprise from a talented musician. I also recommend checking out "Oliver Twist," "Lucky 1," and "Heather in the Hospital."