Brute Folk 

Animal Collective builds a chaotic, 'New Yorky' sound.

Listening to Here Comes the Indian, the latest full-length by New York's Animal Collective, the last association you're likely to make is that of folk music. But that's the only way to explain how something this sprawlingly psychedelic and awkwardly ambient could come out of an underground that has, of late, been dominated by disco-punk and garage-rock reruns. "In a more traditional, folkier aspect of music," says the Collective's Avey Tare, "I think just being around people all the time [is what] New York is all about -- conversation and exchanging ideas. And I think that in that sense, our music is pretty New Yorky. And the chaotic, fast-paced nature of it -- there's not a lot of downtime or personal time -- I think that's reflected in how crazy a lot of our sounds are."

Crazy is a good way to put it. Like friends and tourmates Black Dice, Animal Collective comes at you from all angles, manipulating sounds and samples, both organic and electronic, into confounding ear-taffy. But the Collective's style is more consistently gentle than that of Black Dice, reflecting the former outfit's rural Maryland upbringing. The sound seems to breathe in and out in the most alarmingly organic fashion; think Amon Düül, Sun City Girls, or Psycho Baba.

There's a darkness to the Animal Collective, too, which has been present in the group's sound for a long time. The four members -- Avey Tare, Geologist, Panda Bear, and Deaken -- have been playing together on and off (but mostly on) since their high school years in Baltimore County, and, though they were influenced early on by such monsters of indie rock as Pavement, they soon found themselves on a more crooked path.

"Even in high school, we started doing psychedelic, '60s-style freak-outs." Tare says. "Mid-set, we would just go into improvised parts. [Geologist] and I were also really getting into horror movies, '70s exploitation horror films, at the same time. So we got into making our own horror soundtracks; a lot of weird sounds and screaming, delayed vocals or any synthesizer sounds we could come up with to make dark horror landscapes." From there it was just a short leap to the more experimental side of things, and once the band migrated to Manhattan, the elements began to coagulate more freely. "Summer of 2000," Tare recalls, "I lived in this studio apartment in downtown New York, and we were able to set up a bunch of different stuff all over the apartment. We would just move from part to part, make everything up as we went along. We put cups and plates, anything we could bang on, really, and we started getting into using portable minidisc players. The room was so nice that we could have these minidisc microphones set up and just record it all live. They were really nice recordings, which actually all got stolen. But it was sweet at the time. We hadn't even started playing shows yet -- we were just sort of getting into this new frame of mind."

Animal Collective plays Sunday at the Ramp (2236 Parker St., Berkeley, in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church) with Restiform Bodies headlining and Ogurusu Norihide opening. Cover is $6 and doors open at 6:30 p.m.


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