ALBUM: Enter the Slasher House
ARTIST: Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
Dave Portner and his merry band of animals have been a mainstay of indie-electro music for the entire twenty-first century. Animal Collective’s period of monumental success came during their four-album arc beginning with 2004’s Sung Tongs and leveling with the accomplished Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009. The band enjoyed its success with fans and critics alike, and hipsters took A.C. as their patron saint. The band got really weird with their darling status, in the way of the ODDSAC visual album and piecemeal sound installations, but their last album, 2012’s Centipede Hz, may have served as a snap back to reality. There seems to be a dawning realization that they need to again produce something larger audiences want to hear in order to remain relevant. At the tail of their hype period, Noah Lennox (A. C.’s Panda Bear) released two stellar solo efforts, albums that diverted much interest from the Collective solely to him. Tare answered with 2010’s Down There, though its unfocused glitch-glitz detracted from the somber musings on death and Portner’s sister’s cancer. Their respective solo albums helped define the two artists musically (in and out of A.C.), and put a bit of a divide between Portner and Lennox, as Panda Bear’s Person Pitch hit all the melodious notes Down There sidestepped. We found Tare was the weird one, Bear was the songsmith. It became easy to pick out which parts of Animal Collective songs were forged by which member. Largely, the most appealing aspects of their songs seem to be of Lennox’s pop mind (revisit his balmy hypnosis on Merriwether Post Pavilion’s “My Girls”). That’s not to say that Portner isn’t capable of creating a pleasant, imaginative melody (see the sloshing beat on Down There’s “Ghost of Books”), but he does seem to favor the arcane over the accessible. Now, after Centipede Hz underwhelmed most of us through its confusion (It’s worth noting that Tare wrote eight of the songs), Portner surfaces with alum from the Dirty Projectors (maybe the next most vaunted indie band) and Baltimore’s funky defunct Ponytail in tow. What the power trio has come up with is an all-over-the-place collection of dance-macabre bursts that draw the best elements from each member’s respective groups. Portner flourishes in the Slasher House working with these similar minds. Avey Tare got his groove back.
Enter the Slasher House is self-aware, unabashed camp, yes, but there are sustained moments of total grooviness in harmony with the theatricality of the project. The songs often move from experimental “kitchen sink-ing” into the realm of certified dance goodness that made Animal Collective explode in the mid-aughts. It’s pleasant to experience this within Tare’s own world, and he keeps those hooks deranged enough to be interesting. “Little Fang” is the strongest example of this new harmony. The song’s simple but fascinating backbeat is reminiscent of moments on Feels (see “Grass”) where it felt criminal to be having this much fun to some nonsense. The same goes for “Strange Colores”, a funky odyssey within the gobbling maw of dancing and jamming. Though, the album’s highs are balanced out by the uneven cuts that have moved from interesting and novel to purposeless and hapless. The failed story-song of “The Outlaw” goes nowhere and ends up annoying more than anything else.
Orbiting the whole work—good and not so much—is a sense that few other artists could make this absurdity make sense. Slasher Flicks feels similar to Animal Collective at their (debatable) best—stripped down yet full of experimental fire. The strength of Avey Tare—with or without the rest of Animal Collective—is when he settles into the trancelike repetitions that grow and change throughout the course of the song. It’s Panda Bear’s forte, but Tare makes it work here, on tracks like “Little Fang” and “A Sender.” The pop know-how is there, but the other elements are not overbearing like much of Tare’s previous work—allowing both consideration and jollification.
You’re something special/ Want you to know you are.”