Review : Animal Collective - Campfire Songs
PitchforkWhen the newly reissued Campfire Songs first came out in 2003, there was no such thing as Animal Collective. After releasing two albums of warped noise-pop under different combinations of weird names, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin, and Geologist were still learning how to integrate their distinct electro-acoustic preoccupations. The "Animal Collective" brand was later affixed to it, but Campfire Songs was originally intended to be the album's eponymous title. In truth, it's more appropriate. It's not simply that they hadn't picked a name; they really weren't Animal Collective yet. This was before the "Letterman" appearances and spectrum-wide media interest; before they became the object of hit pieces and big-picture rants in the trenches of online journalism; before Deakin wanted you to help him play Mali-- basically, before Animal Collective got about as formidable, culturally and aesthetically, as a modern indie band can be. This release retroactively stresses how hard they must have had to push to get there.
It was the only time they used the name "Campfire Songs", and the album has other peculiarities. It's the only one featuring this exact line-up (Geologist didn't play, only ran the MiniDisc recorders, on the Maryland porch where the five songs were captured in one long take.) It's much more acoustic than electro, made chiefly of intertwined voices, softly droning guitars, and light natural ambiance. It's an uncommonly easeful entry into their catalog, and an important pivot. The feeling of discovery that attends it is not incidental. "Congregate," they moan portentously on "Moo Rah Rah Rain". The album sounds like a careful group of musicians on the verge of figuring out what they are....full text
Stylusmagazinef this year’s Here Comes the Indian is a stunning encapsulation of everything the Animal Collective is capable of, Campfire Songs is its starker, more intimate companion piece, a striking, extended examination of one aspect of the group’s diverse musical palette. That said, a record this good should hardly be dismissed as the band’s lesser effort from this year, and the many subtle pleasures to be found here make Campfire Songs nearly as essential as the group’s other 2003 album.
Recorded in late 2001, it’s not surprising that Campfire Songs is completely different in style from the band’s more recent work, but the album’s unique sound can also be attributed to a conscious artistic decision to make an album of back-porch psychedelia. For the duration of these five lengthy songs, Animal Collective members Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist limit themselves entirely to acoustic guitars and singing, with none of the electronics or drumming that are so characteristic of all the other Collective-related efforts. Surprisingly, this lack of variation in the instrumentation does nothing to prevent the outfit’s always-unconventional sound from stretching out into new and exciting directions.
Armed with just three guitars and their own technically unspectacular voices, these musicians craft dense, deep walls of melody so gorgeous that it’s nearly overwhelming. Throughout, the guitar parts weave together in unusual ways, crossing paths frequently as if all were on their own meandering way to entirely different destinations, but somehow keep winding up in the same place. And the singers trade off between leads and harmonies, their high and strained vocals blending in an affecting manner that’s made all the more beautiful by its roughness.
As a whole, Campfire Songs is concerned with fostering mood and atmosphere from its simple elements. The place and time of its recording are integral to the experience, with elemental sounds of rain, birds chirping, wind, and rustling bushes prominently featured in the mix -- both naturally present during the outdoor sessions and added later through overdubs. The gentle reverberating twang of the three guitars creates a hypnotic effect above this naturalistic hum and hiss, and the voices often blend into the music as just another element of the overall sound, the lyrics sometimes indecipherable if it weren’t for the included insert....full text
MusicomhFirst released in 2003, this delight of an album was created by three quarters of musicOMH Album Of 2009 winners Animal Collective (the trio of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Deakin), who for these purposes billed themselves - and the resultant release - as Campfire Songs.
Recorded on a screened-in porch in one take, although the collection of songs had been written over the course of the previous five or so years, it followed the band's 2001 Danse Manatee and provided a significant contrast to that album's assault-by-electronic-overload. This release is the first time that the album has been made available digitally.
Rather than an actual discernable "start", the sounds and music of opening track Queen In My Pictures instead emerge as if from the ether, beautifully evoking the gradual building and crackling of that campfire. Non-tangible and otherworldly, this long (just short of 10 minutes) and subtle piece is a drowsily, pervasively effective scene-setter for what is to follow....full text
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