Avey Tare - Down There

by Rory McKeown Rating:9 Release Date:2010-11-01

Avey Tare's haunting Down There was recorded in a church, so it's fitting his first solo album is a rather morose affair. Down There is an astonishing piece of work that requires a bucket load of patience and repeated listens to truly appreciate how overwhelmingly brilliant it is.

Avey Tare is the pseudonym of Animal Collective founding member David Portner, who has borrowed the finer aspects of the stunning Merriweather Post Pavilion and the vibe of 2005's Feels to piece together one this year's most unique efforts. It's not an easy album to get into - Portner endured a torrid time in his personal life while recording it - and not as instantly grabbing as the drug-fused entrancing psychedelia of fellow pack member Panda Bear's Person Pitch. But his wild and abstract musicianship shines throughout, directly from jaunty opener 'Laughing Hieroglyphic', which bounces around like a children's television show theme tune thanks to its buoyant wind organ melody.

The breathtaking 'Oliver Twist' bares the remarkably similar pristine production of Burial's genre-breaking Untrue, encapsulating a dusty, heart-racing dubstep drum beat and suffocating ambience to evoke a punishingly claustrophobic but superlative sound. The tempo drops for the ghoulish 'Ghost of Books', a slow-burner that flinches the skin with its eerie sound effect of either scuttling insects or what lies within Area 51's secret basement. The bittersweet 'Heather in the Hospital' captures Portner at his most delicate ebb, combining a heart-wrenching tale of witnessing a loved-one in hospital - "And brings me down/machines of modern magic keeping folks above the ground/a nurses scribbling pad, a shadow shape, a mother going down" - with a resounding backing track that gently builds to a europhic crescendo.

Down There's only punishable negative is handing lead single 'Lucky 1' the album's concluding slot. The bass-heavy, up-tempo joint rumbles along like a tribal anthem as Portner wails "Were you crying? Well are you crying?". 'Lucky 1' is surely a shoe-in for the mid-album entry, but perhaps this is a stroke of genius from Portner as he leaves the album to emerge from the gloom like piercing sunshine.

Last year's Merriweather Post Pavilion wasn't just one of the albums of the 00s, it was an important piece of modern art - affirming Animal Collective's status as an act of our generation. Here, Portner has managed keep the momentum running with Down There and each listen promises to slice through its intricate sinews to reveal something new to gasp at.

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