By Nick Stropko
Animal Collective may be a household name at this point (well, among WKDU DJs anyway), but they’ve been releasing their warped freak-folk in different incarnations since 2000. Their excellent first album, Sprit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, is unfortunately a lesser-known entry in their catalog. While it is credited to Animal Collective, their debut is largely an Avey Tare affair—Panda Bear provides “perfect percussion” (according to the album credits), but everything else is handled by Tare. Knowing Animal Collective, it’s not surprising that the album sounds nothing like the rest of their catalog.
“April and the Phantom,” the album’s second track (and my personal favorite) is fairly representative of Sprit as a whole. It’s a study in dichotomy—almost every element rubs against another to great effect. The song opens with a high-pitched, sugar coated synth line before running headfirst into loud, jarring white noise. The clatter cuts away to reveal Panda Bear’s distinctive percussion—it’s aggressive in the frequency of his hits, but is tempered by his use of brushes. Meanwhile, chirpy, cheap sounding synthesizers sing over the track’s high end while Avey Tare relentlessly strums his acoustic guitar. Tare’s singing ranges from timid, sweet falsetto to outright screaming, with everything in between present. The lyrics are very much up for interpretation, but seem to be a schizophrenic love story, with lyrics split between a narrator, April, and the Phantom—with each voice being sung in a distinct style from the last (I particularly like the phaser [I think?]-laden harmonies during the Phantom’s part).
“April and the Phantom” is entirely bizarre, extremely captivating, and absolutely worth a listen. Stream it above.