By now your opinion of Animal Collective is set: Maybe you’re a long-time fan, but felt the group’s last record was less adventurous than usual. Perhaps you’re a recent convert, drawn in by the id-filtered pop of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Or maybe you’re allergic to buzz bands.
Whatever your take, Down There by collective member Avey Tare won’t change your mind. It sounds, basically, like band minus two-thirds (or three-fourths), without filling the space left by the other members’ absence. Avey’s vocals are as eccentric and excited as ever, and they float over dubbed-out bass sounds and fogs of echo. The record is distant and spacey, but also spare, which results in a sound that—-while likely intentional—-often feels half-baked.
Of course, if you happen to be especially interested in what Avey Tare contributes to the collective, Down There is a solid study of his quirky textures and slow, off-kilter grooves. He swims in sampled aquatic noises and rides familiar-sounding accordions, but he never really takes off. It’s a strange and unexpectedly mellow trip that often finds Avey hovering like a disembodied specter of himself, lost behind vocal manipulations. Frequently, he shirks off any prominent sense of melody.
In spite of its more difficult elements, the record can surprisingly subtle. It’s not intensely exotic or jarring, it doesn’t aggressively push the envelope, and the songs don’t reach for the poppy heights that other recent A.C.-related projects have hit. Down There is a patient exploration of bass-heavy songwriting interspersed with odd gurgling noises and bubbling synth sounds. Don’t expect a breakout hit: Avey Tare’s latest offers a dark, quiet, and mostly unmemorable addition to A.C.’s ever-growing oeuvre.