album reviews

Animal Collective
Fat Cat (2005)

While last year's outstanding acoustic "Sung Tongs" was released under the Animal Collective name, it was primarily the work of guitarist/vocalist Avey Tare and percussionist Panda Bear. "Feels" marks the return of guitarist Deakin and electronics wizard Geologist, and the album's thicker sound makes the impact of full participation instantly apparent. The ringing tapestry of guitars and piano on "Flesh Canoe" and the shimmering electronics of "Loch Raven" give the album a wholeness absent from earlier efforts: Even the quieter tracks on "Feels" barely contain a empty moment.

Like the group's recent live shows, the album melds its songs into one continuous idea, capturing first the full-blown euphoria of a bacchanal and later, its groggy, hung-over aftermath. "Feels" begins raucously, with the jubilant "Did You See the Words" and the chanted "Grass," which is anchored by a heartbeat percussion. And while that feral, driving beat permeates "Feels," the Collective is markedly less savage here than previously. The sprawling eight-minute "Banshee Beat" begins with a whisper but doesn't grow much beyond Avey Tare's murmured narrative.

That balance between boisterous, brash melodies and delicate, dreamy soundscapes is the album's most defining characteristic. Rather than creating a Jekyll-and-Hyde struggle, the disparate sounds manifest themselves as part of the Collective's natural ebb and flow, making "Feels" a cohesive album that delivers as much of an emotional journey as any of its individual, isolated tracks.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 26 October 2005, Page C05
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