New Release: Animal Collective

Animal Collective: Fall be Kind
Domino / Paw tracks (2009)

When established bands put out EPs, warning bells are triggered off in my zany little brain. I often end up feeling ripped off by the half-baked tunes within the abbreviated format. They’re promoted as ‘stuff that didn’t fit on the album’ when really they’re just B-side filler.

Prior to its release, Animal Collective spoke about the Fall be Kind EP as a collection of songs written during the sessions for Merriweather Post Pavilion, which didn’t fit into the sunnier, water oriented vibes of that album. And guess what? They weren’t cranking our chains. These guys are the real, honest to goodness deal.

The five tracks here are certainly shadier and, yes, more autumn sounding than the full-length release that it accompanies. They veer wildly between the shimmering sound scapes of Feels era Animal Collective and the danceable pulse of Merriweather. As EPs go, Fall be Kind also sounds more like an album, the way songs bleed into each other to take the listener on a whimsical 27 minute journey.

Graze opens proceedings with one of those dreamy interplays of watery sound and far-away vocals a la the moodiness of their Feels record from 2005. Unexpectedly the song morphs into a fucked up jig of tin whistles, stomping toms and Grimey bass lines. It’s a concoction that could only ever work in the hands of Animal Collective – do not try this at home.

Similarly, What Would I Want? Sky (the one with the Grateful Dead sample) leads you astray with psychedelia before opening up into a trip-hop ride through pianos, chimes and vocal harmonies directly related to Panda Bear’s solo stuff.

After an ambient middle track, the last half of Fall be Kind is what sinks its teeth into me the most. Certainly darker than the opening tunes, both On a Highway and I Think I Can revolve around vaguely tribal beats sitting on odd time signatures. Weirdo samples snap and crackle in the periphery, while Avey and Panda’s vocals take on a ritualistic and chant-like feel. It’s magical in a very unsettling way.

Fall be Kind is a real gem. It’s a short burst of sunshine through cloudy days.  I love these guys for the evolution they’ve undertaken during their career, and for constantly surprising with unusual approaches to traditional sounds and genres. And if you’ve never heard Animal Collective before, this could be a fantastic, and easy place to start.

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