Animal Collectives highly experimental and darkly lit EP ‘Fall Be Kind’, a move away from the more diaphanous and empyrean Merriweather Post Pavilion epic of the same year.
‘FALL BE KIND’
Domino Records 2009
Vinyl (comes with free download coupon) / CD / Download
1. Graze (5:22)
2. What Would I Want? Sky (6:46)
3. Bleed (3:29)
1. On A Highway (4:36)
2. I Think I Can (7:10)
And so with a heavy heart and signs of trepidation I find myself crossing fingers, hoping that maybe just maybe this follow-up EP to 2009’s best album, will stand up.
Fall Be Kind is like an extra add-on gift from the same guys responsible for Merriweather Post Pavilion; though with a pinch more of the broody sublime.
If ‘Merriweather’ was an opera to the sensitive and optimistic spirit of twenty something’s everywhere, then this record is a slightly more introverted and moodier inward thinking opuscule.
There isn’t quite so much of the pure joyous celebrations, which can be found on ‘My Girls’ or ‘Summertime Clothes’, yet there is still an ethereal beauty that transcends the more darker sounding undercurrents and themes.
The opening ‘Graze’ starts with an uncanny throwback to Mercury Rev, who appear to have a strong influence on both this track and ‘On A Highway’ with their sleepy atmospherics lending the song an air of mystique.
A ghostly premonition backed vocal, via the more somber moments of the Beach Boys Smile and surprisingly Pet Sounds, interrupts the gentle dream like introduction.
Half way through and the mood shifts moving up a gear with a chorus of Romanian pan flutes courtesy of soundtrack maestro Gheorghe Zamfir – whose brand of authentic eastern European folk has been used for countless movies including Picnic At Hanging Rock, Once Upon A Time In America and even Kill Bill Vol 1. Its specifically his ‘Ardeleana’ gypsy dance melody that is used to good effect here, the 2/4 time signatures making for a slightly awkward jaunty groove that can’t help but put a smile on your face.
This all shifts effortlessly into a kind of out of Africa feel as the repeated refrain of ‘why do you have to go’ builds up into feverishly addictive and bewildering poly rhythmic slice of pop.
‘What Would I Want? Sky’ is up next with its two pronged enigma of a title, a question/answer rebuke in two halves.
Part one so to speak begins with all dry ice atmospherics before a swirling cavalcade of beats emerge from the ether.
An accompanying merry ditty reminiscent of Olivia Tremor Controls Black Foliage era experiments, though slightly less twee, plays alongside the general bright optimistic backing.
More of those dreamy hypnotizing spell effects follow spliced with a sample of The Grateful Dead‘s dawdling and relentless track ‘Unbroken Chain’, which evidently is the first officially sanctioned use of one of the Dead’s tracks ever, though by now this often repeated fact will bore you no end.
The lyrics themselves could have come from the ethos of the late 60’s West coast period of self realisation itself with the line ‘I should be floating but I’m weighted by thinking’, which bears down upon us like it’s some kind of epiphany.
Side A ends on ‘Bleed’, which gloomily begins with a creepy monologue that sounds like it’s being read out by a heavily Mogadon dosed Noah Lennox, pronunciations of some apocalyptic end of days or the epistles according to Animal Collective are drowned out by the Terminator machine droned vocal effects.
Cries in the wilderness beckon before eventually the song reaches its bitter end, though we are first dragged through a dirge like and quite disturbing in equal measures backing. We are left with a menacing slice of experimentation that relies on the dragged out vocals to convey some kind of mystery.
Flipping over to the remaining last two tracks and the echoing reverb drenched rattling from the beyond this worlds wonderment of ‘On The Highway’. An inspiring ode to a modern day route 66, which tries to emulate Kerouac but falls some way short, though not from want of trying.
The backing is an elegantly pastoral trip of psychedelic exuberance, which has numerous amounts of clanging and metal sounding percussion interspersed throughout as it builds into momentous stirring soundscape.
A road trip through the great American expanses never sounded quite so down beat.
Closing track ‘I Think I Can’ has more of those polyrhythms, conjuring up scenes of Savannah-evoking landscapes via 80’s new romanticism, whilst the percussion revolves around a quasi Clockwork Orange themed aura of industrial sounds.
The melodic harmonies on show are pure Dennis Wilson and Mike Love larking around with a cacophony of effects in the studio whilst Brian has popped out to spread his toes in the sandbox.
This is a slow burner of a track but worth your patience.
Fall Be Kind is a pretty impressive stopgap until the next long player, though it easily stands up as one of 2009 best releases and only just got left out of our own list.
Animal Collective have continued to move ever forward and chart some almost barely tapped regions and influences.
Though some of these tracks have been hanging around as live material and unfinished for a while, and were written around the same time as Merriweather, they kind of bridge the next step, one that will see them move from their late twenties into their thirties. This change may throw up all kinds of reflective observational prose or could see them go all out into the darker never regions, away from the success and attention that surrounded them on their last album.
As dark as it may get the guys always have an ear for melodies.