Remixes are seldom essential, especially when the original tracks are great.  But these two collections break repeatedly from that general tendency.

A bit part of it surely has to do with the talent that’s assembled in each case. Ripperton, Nicolas Jaar, Tim Hecker, and others re-interpreting tracks from Ellen Allien’s “Dust.” Moritz von Oswald, Four Tet, Animal Collective, et al doing the same for Pantha Du Prince’s “Black Noise.” A couple of my favorites appear below.

Ellen Allien – Sun the Rain (Tim Hecker Remix)

Pantha du Prince – Welt am Draht (Animal Collective Remix)

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Avey Tare – Lucky 1

November 21, 2010

From his lp, “Down There.” Paw Tracks Records, 2010.

15 more favorites from last year, to go with the 10 local albums listed below.

  1. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  2. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
  3. Sister Suvi, Now I Am Champion
  4. Shrag, Shrag
  5. Bibio, Ambivalence Avenue
  6. Atlas Sound, Logos
  7. Animal Collective, Fall Be Kind
  8. Maayan Nidam, Nightlong
  9. Abe Vigoda, Reviver
  10. DJ Koze, Reincarnations – The Remix Chapter 2001-2009
  11. God Help the Girl, God Help the Girl
  12. Sonic Youth, The Eternal
  13. Durutti Column, Love in the Time of Recession
  14. The Juan Maclean, The Future Will Come
  15. Mountains, Choral

Animal Collective‘s new “Fall Be Kind” EP, released digitally by Domino Records this week, presents five new songs, diverse in their styles and moods but each fabulously perfect in its own way.

“Graze,” the opener, recalls Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” with its soaring vocal and abrupt shift midway through. “What Would I Want? Sky” echos the cautiously optimistic themes that run throughout “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” All three band member’s talents come together beautifully on the haunting “Bleed,” certainly the most striking and probably my favorite track on the record. “On a Highway” would be the center panel for a triptych that has, to its left, Kerouac’s “On the Road” and, to its right, that wonderful “Tiny Dancer” scene from Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous.” And the finale, “I Think I Can,” brings us back to “Person Pitch” and “Merriweather” too, combining the key elements from both of those previous works.

Some people might dismiss this EP, saying that they got tired of hearing the more popular tracks off “Merriweather.” But that I just don’t understand. To me, that’s like saying, “gee, I’m just kind of bored of looking at ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon'” or “yeah, I’ve just seen ‘Lavender Mist’ one too many times.” That’s just crazy!

One last point to make is that I really don’t think it’s a coincidence or accident that the Grateful Dead song sampled in “Sky” is titled “Unbroken Chain.” With their work this year, Animal Collective build on the basic ideas advanced previously by David Foster Wallace and Stephen Malkmus. That irony and cynicism are, at this point, dead ends; that many elements of postmodernism that once felt exciting and bold now seem tired and out-of-date; that the second-rate, faux-Cartesian/solipsistic theorizing that passes for scholarship these days is … well … a lot of worthless junk; and that the search for true emotion, true satisfaction and happiness, and indeed the search for truth itself really require as essential inputs experience, experimentation, and the Popperian scientific method. With their work this year, that is, the members of Animal Collective stand tall, not just with the great creative forces of our time, but all the great intellects extending back to generations past: “The Unbroken Chain.” At least if you ask me ….

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably also seen the reviews here, here, here, and especially here.  Well, imho, the album lives up to and then exceeds all those expectatations and hype. Animal Collective are, at least for this moment, like the Beatles, neither overrated nor underrated: everyone thinks they’re the best, and that’s because they are the best.

One aspect of the new album that stands out for me, but which I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere, is that none of the songs contain even a hint of irony, sarcasm, cynicism, or anger. Allusions to the Beach Boys are quite obvious, to the Grateful Dead perhaps slightly less so. But, let’s face it: California in the 1960s was the last place and the last time where songs were written about the American dream that are completely free from those elements of  irony, sarcasm, cynicism, and anger. My preferred variation on the theme raised in the Village Voice review is to say that here, Animal Collective offer up their own version of the American dream, just like Brian Wilson and the Dead did back then in their own different ways.

Who knows? Maybe, two or three years from now, this album will sound dated. But then again, Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville now sounds very much of-a-time/of-a-place, and I still love it. So far, this one by Animal Collective ranks right up there.