Albums of the Decade: Animal Collective – Here Comes The Indian (Paw Tracks, 2003)

Here Comes The Indian

An Indian Summer, that’s what Americans call unseasonably fine Autumns (or Fall I suppose), a little slice of warm and dry Summer in the golden months, a final spike of life and light before the Winter darkness begins to intrude. I’ve heard parenthood described in not dissimilar terms; having children and grandchildren is supposed to be rejuvenating, bringing some sense of since passed youth back to those who haven’t seen it in some time, an opportunity for new fun and vicarious living through your offspring. That thrill of new blood, of propagation, of an Indian Summer of your life, goes some way to define Animal Collective’s perhaps most unusual record.

The journey to this planned parenthood is brought to us through some of AnCo’s most ambiguous and woozy pieces, tracks that radiate their earlier primitivism and tribalistic fervour. Opener “Native Belle” slowly jangles and glitches into existence, coalescing perilously through guitar riffs and hazy vocals led by Avey before tumbling into percussive energy. It probes endlessly, unleashing its excitable wantonness but keeping itself coy and shielded by lo-fi smudging.

“So do you, so do you, so do you

love me love me love me?”

It shimmies away on refractive synths, spinning out lightwaves that segue delicately into follower “Hey Light”; all of the most energetic pieces bring their fire early and then descend into tantalising quiescence after they’re spent, harsh comedowns after their youthful frenzies. Tribal chants and shouts call feverishly through the dark as Panda and Avey seem to dance round the campfire but it bursts into life with the dawn, rushing with spontaneity in the eager drums and explosive guitar as it welcomes a new day. But it’s brief too, sliding quickly into fireside reverie in front of the embers in woozily primitive hummings, as though they’ve lulled themselves into a trance: “Infant Dressing Table”.

In its growing buzz of blurry voices and indistinct ambient croonings we’re placed in a babies shoes, seeing the world afresh through young eyes as faces pass by without recognition, words carried on the air around us without the prerequisite knowledge to understand them. It climbs slowly, kaleidoscopically, through textural crescendo, almost to fever pitch, reality expanding before us as we age and become more learned. Is proceeding “Panic”, with all its dark synths and haunting voices crying out of the dark, a fear of the world a child will enter and the state it’s in? Perhaps as it goes by and the chants mush into an almost sheep-like bleating there is a fear of homogeneity and creeping sterility in the world, or maybe that’s just the age and cynicism of a weary future parent.

But there’s beauty in urbanity, and AnCo know how to see the magic of the world through a child’s eyes in “Two Sails on a Sound”. One of the longest and certainly the most ambient piece they’ve ever crafted, it’s a magnificent dawning journey as thin scraping synths tickle the senses, the concrete shimmering with the growing heat of the daydream as it bends into existence. Blustery heavings hint suggestively at industrial movements around us but the piano rolls around us in lulling grace, Avey’s warped voice dripping into the urban landscape twirling about us, a melting pot of culture and architecture and humanity stamped onto the Earth.

Suddenly that excitement returns and it can’t be helped: the thrill of showing a new person the magic of the world people have built bursts out in the uncontrollable frenzy of “Slippi”. Raw and untempered the enthusiasm beams out through the lo-fi obfuscation in infectious passages and hearty screams of passion.

“Well I’m gonna raise a family
And I gotta have a baby”

Sense runs away from us though and perhaps practicality sets in with aptly titled closer “Too Soon”. Tidally it advances, lilted passages of guitar and synth rushing forwards with sporadic power in between woozy croonings, a liveliness and passion surging out of the stodgy boredom of pre-child mid-life existence. It pushes for a wanting, tantalising future that it can’t sustain yet, can’t quite get to stick or materialise right now. “It’s too soon, too soon…” he whispers at its conclusion, a quiet acceptance allowing the piece to finally end. I’m ready now he posits enthusiastically…but he’ll have to wait another Winter.