Avey Tare and Panda Bear - "Danse Manatee"
(Catsup Plate Records 710, 2001)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
The forest children are back, joined by the Geologist, with the follow up to their fabulous debut "Spirit They're Gone Spirit They've Vanished". That album was deservedly played all over US college radio. Perhaps they could have ridden that wave to greater popularity, but with more experience under their belt, the new album is less poppy with fewer of those heavenly carnivalesque songs of innocense (a fellow DJ of mine suggested T. Rex), a generally grittier production and a more angst-ridden chaos (certainly hinted at on the debut) this time around.
In a way this is more of a collage album, there being 12 tracks and only 45 minutes of music overall. It begins with crisp electronic sounds and then the mad avant-erratic assualt of "Penguin Penguin". This should just be random noise, but Panda's percussion again is perfect and there's an unlikely free-jazz tunefullness to the madness. "Another White Singer (Little White Glove)" is shear genius, with kiddy voices chanting, a fucked-up, underground hip-hop beat and the now-familar voice of Avey sickly moaning out the chorus. "Essplode" is one of those pretty little tunes like those on the debut, but still throws those explosive screaming vocals and crash-cymbals at you to keep you from getting too cheery. "Meet the Light Child" has clanging, percussive, piercing electronics, more mad but distinctive percussion against a threatening bulbous slinking bass crawl. I wish lyrics had been included this time around, as most of these vocals are pretty much indecipherble. "Runnin' the Round Ball" is a short rhythmic drum-pounding freak-out, with more of Avey's jangly electronics and kiddy-cries. The next couple of tracks are a bit of a lull in the course of the album, the avant-noise and random weirdness being less effective here. But afterwards, it's shear bliss till the end. "Throwin' the Round Ball" is another lilting complex keyboard melody against dubby bass combined contrarily with harsh electronic explosions. "Ahhh Good Country" is a freaky ambient build up to a fantastic uplifting chorus, anchored by Avey's symplistic acoustic strums and a monster building heartbeat beat. Definitely a near-the-finish-of-a-conceptual-album type feel. "In the Singing Box" is the grand finish, beginning with a bristling heavenly two-chord keyboard throne-of-bliss, electronic rhythmic bass blurting on and off, while kiddish off-key shouts trade with the rhythm. Again, these men-children have managed to be extremely original and to combine happy and horrific themes so expertly. This is the experience.
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Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg