Thursday, December 28, 2006

PANDA BEAR: Bros / ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: People (Fat-Cat Records)

Fat-Cat Records 2006
02 Tracks. 17mins47secs

12FAT060 / CDFAT060
Fat-Cat Records 2006
04 Tracks. 18mins55secs

Buy PANDA BEAR: Bro's: 12”
Fat-Cat Records | Paw Tracks

Panda Bear brought the Fat-Cat 2006 release schedule to a close with his solo debut for the label, Bro’s, so it was only fair that Animal Collective would lead the Cat’s 2007 parade with their latest offering. Both come only weeks after Paw Tracks re-released the band’s rare live album Hollinndagain.

Of these two releases, Panda Bear’s is definitely the most inspiring. Coming ahead of a split twelve inch with Excepter and his third solo album, both due on Paw Tracks, and recorded last year in Noah Lennox’s home in Lisbon, this EP features two versions of the title track. The original is a hypnotic thirteen minute epic composition built around two distinct sections which are seamlessly blended into one. The first part of the track is particularly characteristic of Noah’s solo work. Layered over a linear shimmering guitar strum, Lennox’s vocals, somewhat set slightly in the distance, carry essence of sixties psychedelic pop and give this piece a luscious warm hue, but, as the musical backdrop become meatier, a more tribal tone emerges and eventually takes over, pushing the track in a direction which recalls early Animal Collective work.

Formed of Black Dice’s Eric Copeland and fellow Animal Collective member Avey Tare, Terrestrial Tones evolve in a much more straightforward experimental field. Here, they give Bro’s a radical reworking by stripping it off its layers of sound and isolating Noah’s voice. The rest of the sonic space is filled with recurring elements which maintain a rhythmic effect all the way through. As these imperceptibly shift in and out of focus and the voice at times almost entirely disappears, Terrestrial Tones retain the atmospheric mood of the original but give the track a completely new dimension.

Although coming out over a year after Animal Collective’s enchanting Feels, three of the four songs featured on this EP, People, Tikwid and My Favorite Colors, were actually recorded during the same sessions. A slow-burning piece which builds up over its entire course, the title track shares more than a few common genes with songs like Banshee Beat or Loch Raven. Yet, as words are replaced with incantations and strummed drones seem to materialise, People recalls some of the band’s compositions circa Here Comes The Indian.

The short interlude My Favorite Colors further reinstates the Collective’s chanting tradition, proving that, despite investigating more accessible sonic terrains in recent years, the band have lost nothing of their boldness. In contrast, Tikwid is a much more upfront and openly happy song, with a short and snappy sparkling chorus while noises and samples constantly detract the mind from the piano and drums combination. The EP concludes with a live version of People, recorded in Boston during the band’s 2005 US tour.

While there is currently no information on a follow up to Feels and the forthcoming Panda Bear album is tentatively scheduled for winter 2007, the almost simultaneous arrival of these two EPs will undoubtedly be welcomed by fans. If neither Bro’s nor People depart radically from previous releases, the latter giving no real clue to which direction the band might be found digging their way next, they are both worthy addition to the Collective’s musical nebula.

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