Avey Tare Avey TareDown There
Down there, at the bottom of this hallucinatory album, are all of the trials and tribulations besetting David Portner, alias Avey Tare. Let’s see: he’s just lost his grandmother, his sister Heather has just been diagnosed with cancer and, to top it off, he’s separating from his wife Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, the musician from múm with whom in 2007 he formed the disappointing project Pullhair Rubeye. Up there, on the other side of the world from all of this, there is still the memory of the impressive “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, one of those albums to carry around with you for life, a work that is impossible to surpass, for better or for worse. In 2010, with Animal Collective being established at that peak of modern psychedelics as a genre in and of themselves, it’s members seem to be treading very carefully when it comes to solo projects. Enough has been said about Noah Lennox, alias Panda Bear, this year, and even more will be to come, as we receive news of his long-awaited “Tomboy” bit by bit. “Down There” by Avey Tare arrives stealthily to state an obvious point that could be made even without having listened to the album, but which is no less revealing for that: it is exactly the type of album that could be expected if we took the logistical support of Brian Weitz, alias Geologist, and Lennox’s compositional genius out of the band. Past is the year 2000, in which Tare wrote “Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished” –probably the seed of the group that is most easily taken advantage of– with Lennox half in the shadow. Today the tables have turned and it’s clear that from within the animal group, the only thing that can hold a candle to an album like “Feels” (2005) or “Sung Tongs” (2004) is the Panda Bear split-off.
Why? Well, we know that psychedelica isn’t an easy genre, and it is much less a genre for everyone. This was clear from Panda Bear’s performance last year at Primavera Sound festival, a revealing, seminal concert that almost everyone left as fast as they could. To give it a digestible form and make it democratic, it has to be brought as close as possible to avant-pop. They both know it. Lennox is going to get radical in the new “Tomboy”, that’s for sure, but we could say that Tare is still exactly where we left him, one step behind Lennox. In fact, it is almost paradigmatic that in order to record “Down There”, he had to call on the wisdom of Josh Dibb, alias Deakin, a founding member of Animal Collective who, as you know, no longer forms a part of the group. Together they give shape to a catalogue of submerged sounds combined with drones like psychophonies, gloomy loops that fold over, twisted nocturnal visions, and sound holograms. Like appearances of the Virgin Mary that at times one can connect with and at other times not, the substrate of “Down There” is so translucent and voluble that, lacking a fixed weight to hold it to the ground, it ends up being overly porous and—although this isn’t as bad—amorphous.
“Down There” is a notable album, but he should have worried less about its experimental façade and more about giving a solid basis to the repertoire of nine songs. The lyrics, without delving any further, would benefit from the dramatic background that the project is supposed to have. Nevertheless, and although all that shines isn’t gold, there are some pearls. The opening with “Laughing Hieroglyphic” warrants excellent marks, and “Strawberry Jam” works as a manifesto. This is the most powerful part of an album that concentrates its solid material at the poles, and which starts to take on water–and never better said, as this is pure waterdelics– when it crosses the midway point. Beyond “3 Umbrellas”, “Heads Hammock”, “Heather in the Hospital” or the already-known “Lucky 1”, it might be that your ears will get confused by passages that are excessively fragile, with songs that don’t seem to find the right mould—specifically the three central ones: “Glass Bottom Boat”, “Ghost of Books” and “Cemeteries”. All in all, Avey Tare continues to handle tricks exquisitely: that attention when it comes to linking songs together, that ability to make something melancholy into something both strange and familiar at the same time. Yes, we already know the lesson, but that shouldn’t make us forget that we are facing a master. Tare, if anyone doubted it, continues to be one of the key vertices of the Bermudas Triangle into which some of the best melodies and harmonies of the current psychedelic monopoly disappear.