Okay, so it's settled: Animal Collective's Avey Tare is officially more fucked up than Panda Bear. Dave Portner, you win. Congratulations. Now give us a goddamn break already.
On Dead Drunk, the second collaboration between Portner and Black Dice's Eric Copeland under the guise Terrestrial Tones, we get no such relief. Sure, the record sounds like it should be an ear-numbing, mind-expanding trek through everything right and wonderful about two of the most progressive and innovative bands making music today - a collaboration that will surely get many a pair of indie-kid undies all warm and knotted. But despite their potential, these Brooklyn roomies clash in a manner that gets too carried away in creating something strange and unusual and often loses sight of or buries many elements that would otherwise whet listeners' expectations for such a project.
The beginning of "The Sailor" is intriguing enough, using a muffled rhythm track to propel the random impulses that would otherwise ring directionless. But as the dominant riff slowly weasels in as the song's focal point, the perspective shifts to these amateurishly simple elements - vocals included - that ultimately fail to challenge our sonic palate.
When it comes down to it, nearly all of these seven tracks have a fantastically structured base element - typically several conflicting patterns that are so muffled together they create textures that will beguile even the savviest ambient-head. The problem, however, is exactly what turns a song like "The Sailor" to trash. Certain elements such as distorto-vocals ("Plow Man") or a peeling wail on repeat ("Future Train") distract from the song's truly interesting elements. If there's any track that could possibly make me eat my words, it's "This Weekend Wow," which coordinates its many pieces with a surprising unity - or perhaps it's because any vocals aren't as pronounced and obvious as the record's other tracks.
Just as the Terrestrial Tones' debut, Blasted, had noiseniks sprinting full speed toward semi-disappointment, Dead Drunk sounds six billion times better in concept than in execution. When it comes to Animal Collective side projects, it's a safe bet to check out the lo-fi sing-alongs of Panda Bear's Young Prayer or the not-quite-dance-music of Jane's Berserker. Stick with Panda. He'll be your friend, and he knows how to keep all the crazy under control.
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