If you’ve paid attention to underground music in the last two years, you’ve come across the illustrious Animal Collective. High-profile tours with the likes of Black Dice and Mum and fanatical praise from the indie press have lifted this New York-based foursome to the forefront of the underground. Their most recent full-length, 2004’s fantastic Sung Tongs, employed lush acoustic guitars and swirling atmospherics to create a sound both modern and timeless. Prospect Hummer, the group’s greatly anticipated follow-up, flows majestically through four songs of similar depth.
The songs flow naturally from the work on Sung Tongs, but the main addition here is vocals by collaborator Vashti Bunyan. An aspiring art student who quit school in the mid-1960s to focus on music, Bunyan was soon discovered by Andrew Loog Oldham, the man behind the Rolling Stones. He encouraged her to record her first single, 1965’s acclaimed “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind.” But dwindling sales and a changing musical climate pushed her into obscurity, from where she released one album, 1970’s Just Another Diamond Day. Recently she’s regained some popularity among the indie crowd: she collaborated with Devendra Banhart on the title track of 2004’s Rejoicing in the Hands, and she’s been touring with a backing band that includes Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden.
The members of Animal Collective apparently balk at the idea that they’re part of a modern American folk scene, but the folk leanings on this record are undeniable. From the vivid guitars on “It’s You” to the surprisingly organized song writing on “I Remember Learning How To Dive,” this is the most structured Animal Collective release to date. By teaming the band’s knack for experimentation with a brilliantly executed collaboration, the Animal Collective has produced another gem.