CD Roundup — Avey Tare and Brian Eno

Two electronic mainstays succeed in new arenas.

Andrew Penkalski

âÄúDown ThereâÄù

Avey Tare

Label: Paw Tracks

 

Animal Collective is a band that has continually crafted a larger shadow for their newest work to overcome. Since 2004âÄôs âÄúSung Tongs,âÄù the group has repeatedly elevated creative expectations. When their dreamy levels of experimentation took a secondary role to pop sensibilities on last yearâÄôs âÄúMerriweather Post Pavilion,âÄù the recordâÄôs lyrical earnestness added a needed level of pathos to a band whose career had been built around the weird. The fact that group percussionist Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) has developed an equally lauded solo career only furthers these towering expectations surrounding any work associated with the act.

 Vocalist and guitarist David PortnerâÄòs solo debut, âÄúOver There,âÄù sounds almost reactionary to these demands. With each Animal Collective record, the tracks have grown increasingly textured as well as concise. The meandering acoustic and percussively spastic tracks have been long gone. However, it is an aesthetic that Portner returns to in âÄúOver There,âÄù and he does so in a comparably distilled matter.

It sounds clear across âÄúOver ThereâÄù that Portner has never been the electronically obsessed member of the group. The waterfall of synth progressions that surfaced on âÄúStrawberry JamâÄù and gave an angular layer to many tracks on âÄúMerriweather Post PavilionâÄù are notably absent. In fact, electronic ploys remain minimal here. His samples are bare, and the manipulations are punctuated only for the purpose of adding that uncanny vibe within these small, personal songs.

That is, after all, what makes PortnerâÄôs solo debut such a pleasant surprise. His album acts as wonderful insight into his artistic presence across the Animal Collective discography. The taught guitar pluckings on âÄúGhost of BooksâÄù reiterate PortnerâÄôs influence and control during the âÄúFeelsâÄú era.

While âÄúDown ThereâÄù in no way shares the sort of ambition that seeps from each Animal Collective record, this quick collection of songs sheds appropriate light on one of the most innovative collective of minds working in pop music today.

 

3/4 Stars

 

âÄúSmall Craft on a Milk SeaâÄù

Brian Eno

Label: Warp Records

 

When a large artist retreats to a smaller label, the devotees cannot help but excite themselves over what must clearly imply some awesome return to form. Hence, there was quite a bit of commotion when ambient pioneer Brian Eno announced his next work would be coming out under the Warp Records imprint, a label that has been the standard for quality electronic craftsmanship. EnoâÄôs âÄúSmall Craft on a Milk SeaâÄù has now effectively elevated those expectations.

Simply put, EnoâÄôs latest full-length is a multi-layered, multi-paced sometimes haunting, sometimes enthralling odyssey of sound. For a man that has spent the early portion of his career constructing the mold, he still clearly does not remain short on ambition.

âÄúSmall Craft on a Milk SeaâÄù opens with three ghostly, floating tracks. The tense strings against pulsed flicking percussion sound like the end of the world. By the third track, the glitches and bass are rolling at a level of Richard D. James freneticism.

This noted variety makes for all the more disarming of an experience. Even tracks like âÄúPaleosonicâÄù show Eno playing with the contrast of guitar. The album flows as a sort of aural trek through a pastiche of eccentricities that Eno has indulged in throughout a four-decade career.

Moreover, his strengths are maintained in brevity. Aside from the ambient saunter of âÄúLate Anthropocene,âÄù only one other track is over five minutes. This brevity allows for diversity while remaining fluidity across the 55-minute run time.

At the end of the day, many may see âÄúSmall Craft on a Milk SeaâÄù as a simple exercise in EnoâÄôs well-honed craft. However, there is something in the pacing that seems to reiterate this journey mantra prevalent through the record. Eno and his machines are offering the sounds of a man alone. However, it seems hard to have any other interest than wanting to be his solemn passenger.

 

3.5/4 Stars