[sic] Magazine

Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind

It’s been a pretty wild year for the Animal Collective, introducing a new sound and a new album of experimental pop music. As a finishing touch to their latest efforts, they also turned out a new EP – ‘Fall Be Kind’ is a cascade of weird, wild and alluring musical journeys, but the second half is a bit on the monotonous side. Not bad exactly, but not as intense as they’re capable of being. It starts off on a light note with ‘Graze,’ a silvery little melody that trembles and shimmers over the piano and guitar. At first it sounds like birds flying over a sylvan glade, only to slowly shift into a joyous, slightly loopy dance melody strung through with flutes. Or maybe it’s panpipes. You can almost see the frolicking nymphs when you hear it. ‘What Would I Want Sky?’ shifts into a darker sound, almost industrial at times. There’s a stretch of blurred voices overlaid with weird noises and slow-moving riffs… which dissolves into a mournful, softer dirge, and finally shifts upward again with the sound of shimmering strings, and the repeated question, “What would I want sky? What would I want sky?”

These two songs are undoubtedly the high point of the entire album — they’re atmospheric without being heavy, and have plenty of weird eerie instrumentation that floats the listener away on a cloud. And while the first is a light, airy affair, it also segues into a darker and more contemplative melody — it has the right mix of ambient eeriness and soaring pop melodies. No complaints here. The problem is that after that, the next three songs sort of blur together, as if they’re one big song split into three — I wouldn’t have minded ‘Bleeding,’ ‘On a Highway’ and ‘I Think I Can’ as one vast experimental song. But they all have much the same feel, relying on a grey ambient sound with lots of blurry echoing vocals and sharp percussions. None of them are actually bad, but sandwiched together they feel… very repetitive. I kept waiting for something new, and it never came.

One thing that cannot be faulted is Animal Collective’s instrumental prowess — they create dense swathes of beautifully atmospheric music, no matter what the mood. Instead they layer on heavy depths of synth, and twine it together with piano, a shimmering violin melody, slow-grinding basslines, a dancing flute melody, heavy spurts of guitar, and all sorts of percussion (from clattering drumsticks to clapping hands and stomping feet). Oh yes, and one of the songs actually has a licensed Grateful Dead sample… the first ever, apparently. And Avey Tare’s vocals almost serve as another instrument — half the time I can’t understand what the man is saying, but his shifting echoing voice slips through the music like a carp through murky water. And when you can hear him, he sounds incredibly earnest when he sings nonsensical-sounding phrases like “What would I want sky?” or “And I don’t want/To keep myself/From good…”

‘Fall Be Kind’ opens with a brilliant duo of experimental pop songs, but slips into repetition in its second half. If that part had been spiced up, this would have been a spectacular EP.



Album review