Avey Tare. He’s out of Animal Collective.
Oh right. Has he gone solo?
Not really, Animal Collective like to keep themselves busy with side projects.
So what’s the Slasher Flicks bit? Is it horror picture music?
Well I suppose that might depend on your tastes. But essentially no, there’s no long, suspenseful atmospherics followed by sudden dramatic explosions with added bone-crunching sound effects. Nor is it black metal.
Is it just a name then?
Good question. It does seem a little bit tacked on, a convenient story providing opportunities for blood-dripping photo shoots, spooky artwork and a comically eerie website design. Basically, the band all claim to be fans of classic schlock horror movies and comics.
So it is a band then?
Yep. A trio to be precise. Avey, on guitar and vocals, is joined by drummer Jeremy Hyman (ex-Ponytail) and Angel Deradoorian (ex Dirty Projectors) on keyboards. They toured a bit last year and then recorded this album in LA.
So more stripped down than Animal Collective then?
Hmmm, if you heard the single ‘Little Fang’ you’d have noticed a mellow and prettily tuneful sound. Compared to Animal Collective it was rather restrained in it’s experimentation, limited to a few squelchy background sounds and occasional fairytale woodwind. It was surprisingly sweet and could’ve been an outtake from Ariel Pink’s Before Today album.
Sounds great. So is that what the album is like?
In a word, no. Now let me see… have you heard … Animal Collective?
I see. So is it the follow up to Merriweather Post Pavilion that we were all waiting for when we got Centipede Hz instead?
Not exactly. In fact, it’s much more like the follow up to the latter. If you were one of the precious few who embraced Centipede Hz as a masterpiece outstripping MPP then prepare to welcome this with the most-open of arms. If however you were from the notably larger group of people who bought MPP because it was in so many ‘Album of the Year’ lists then you’ll probably find this a struggle.
OK, well I’m probably somewhere in between those two. Is Avey Tare the one who writes the songs with the lush choral vocal arrangements swathed in gorgeous Simon and Garfunkel reverb?
No, you’re probably thinking of Panda Bear. If you want more of that then go for his Person Pitch album. No, Avey Tare contributions instead feature his routinely over-treated, strangled screech, bubbling experimentation, regular impenetrability and unnecessarily complex arrangements.
Right, but didn’t you say this Slasher Flicks business is a trio – more stripped down?
Tare himself claims exactly that. The album was reportedly recorded as live as possible with minimal overdubs. His concept of stripped down though is a far cry from most. It sounds like there are a few effects pedals at work on just about everything here.
Yes, he is a bit bonkers and so was Centipede Hz, but the songs got into my head after a while.
Interesting you should say that. It seems that those who stuck with it beyond the “It’s no MPP!” phase, actually got a lot out of Centipede Hz. With so much going on in every song it was a perfect example of an album that rewards repeated listening. Almost always, at the core of each ball of madness was a tune worth burrowing for.
So are there tunes buried on this album too?
Actually, if you don’t focus your listening too much, wallow a bit, absorb the album via osmosis, the tunes are actually right there from the start. Admittedly, most tracks sound like two songs at once, from time to time it gets rather frantic (‘Blind Babe’, ‘The Outlaw’) but generally it all manages to hang together well. Only on ‘Catchy (Was Contagious)’ does it start to come apart at the seams a little. Of course there is too much going on to expect anyone to ingest it all right away, so it’s best not to try. The way forward is to accept that there are crazy noises at every turn and just listen to the full experience as one.
Duly noted. What about the lyrics? Is that where the horror lies?
Perhaps, but with so many effects on the vocals and Avey’s singing style it’s hard to tell. ‘Little Fang’ is the easiest to make out and aside from the possible vampire connotations of the word “fang”, it’s all fairly tame. I think I heard the word “die” a few times elsewhere. Lyrics will definitely be your reward for repeated listening this time.
If this is Centipede Hz Pt2, where does that leave Animal Collective?
That’s a very narrow statement about this album but I’ll let it slide. It’s not really worth trying to second guess Animal Collective. The history books will generally thank any band for refusing to follow up a classic with a sequel. Animal Collective were probably more daring to allow themselves to get as accessible as they did on Merriweather Post Pavilion so it would be unsurprising if they never went back there. However with this additional outlet for Tare’s lunacy you never know. Jonathan Wallace