DIVERS DOWN: Animal Collective's Geologist and Deacon share the scuba experience with Morgan V. Lebus (Arthur No. 19/Nov. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 19 (Nov. 2005), as a sidebar to Trinie Dalton’s cover feature profile


Photo collage of (and by) Geologist and Deacon

DIVERS DOWN
Animal Collective’s Geologist and Deacon share the scuba experience with Morgan V. Lebus

Arthur: When and where were these photos taken?
Deacon: We went diving off the east side of Marathon Key in Herman’s Hole. The visibility underwater was crystal. Herman is a very large moray eel who no longer lives in his hole–he’s relocated to an aquarium in Miami.

Isn’t scuba diving expensive?
Deacon: The toughest part is getting certified, which costs about $500. I was lucky enough to have a dive master friend who certified me for free. The most expensive part of scuba diving is the travel. You can dive almost anywhere, but unless you’re pretty gung ho about it, diving in the local quarry is less than choice. You want to go somewhere that has a a tropical vibe, with lots of reef life and clear waters. Once you’re there, a full day of diving with boat and and gear rental will run less than $100.
Geologist: While this is true, if you are into cold water diving, there are some good lake spots in New England. I’ve never done any cold water dives because you need to buy a dry-suit.

Your most fascinating underwater find?
Deacon: It’s all fascinating: scuba diving is the best drug ever. My first open water dive (off a boat, away from the shore) was in South Carolina. The visibility was low and we didn’t see much more than a few barrucada and some flounder (a flat bottom feeder fish with both eyes on one side of its head). On the way up the surface I couldn’t see the bottom or the surface but off in front of me about fifteen feet away was a jellyfish. A very simple translucent specimen, but I could’ve watched sway it for hours.
Geologist: In the Gulf of California I went diving off the coast of an island that was home to a sea lion colony. The pups had just been born and they were extremely curious. I also saw a seahorse there—they’re pretty rare. My big dream though, is to see whale sharks, mantas, leafy sea dragons, and a school of hammerhead.

If you could dive anywhere on earth, where would it be?
Geologist: The arctic or antarctic. The way the light filters through the ice is supposed to be amazing. I´d also like to dive in the Andamen sea off the coast of Thailand, but further north, closer to Burma.
Deacon: I think for me it is more a matter of when. Coral is being damaged at an intense rate and a lot of marine life is gone. I imagine that diving 100 years ago would have been a dramatically different experience, regardless of where you did it.

Your deepest dive, ever?
Deacon: South Carolina at about 68 feet down.
Geologist: Deep dives are not necessarily the best because your bottom time is extremely limited. With a normal tank rig you get about 15 minutes of dive time at 90 feet before you have to to a shallower depth and decompress. However, a 30-foot dive can have amazing stuff as well and your dive can be an hour long. My deepest was just above 100. The limit was 90 feet but it was a wall dive—the sea floor was about 65 feet and it stretches out from the island and then you reach the edge and the wall drops 6,000 feet! We swam over the edge and dropped to 90 feet and viewed the wall along our side. It’s an amazing feeling to look down and see nothing but darkness and try to comprehend the bottom being 6,000 feet below you.

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 16/July 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 16 (July 2005)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Sleater-Kinney
The Woods
(Sub Pop)
D: Before we begin, I would like to say that today I am in the mood to rock.
C: Well, my friend, you have come to the right place.
D: [first song starts, D leaps out of chair immediately] Is this one of those Japanese bands? With a girl?!? Who is this singing?
C: That woman is not a girl—she could show you a thing or two. [dramatic pause] It’s Sleater-Kinney, produced by Dave Fridmann.
D: [Jaw hits floor] Really?!? SLEATER-KINNEY?????!!!!???? Fuck, man! [shakes head] This is a MAJOR statement of psychedelic riot woman super-rock power! Rock ‘n roll album of the year! God DAMN!!!!
D: I know. Maybe the decade. Superfuzz-heavy in the Northwest tradition of Blue Cheer-Nirvana-Mudhoney, expansive like Neil Young with Crazy Hors…Hendrix… Built to Spill? There’s stuff on here that is out as Comets on Fire, possible even further. Who’s going to top this? Absolutely gigantic sounds…amps out of the red and into the black… a 14-minute song at the end that goes as far out as Comets On Fire, even into Les Rallizes Denudes and Ash Ra Tempel territory…
D: I have to admit I would never have thought these three women would make a record that’s this relentlessly face-melting.
C: I don’t know if they’d thought it possible either. There’s some precedent in Babes of Toyland, or early Hole, maybe, but this is just so much further… Well, I’m not sure that they’d call it psychedelic but it’s definitely psychoactive in an urgent kind of way.
D: [musing] There’s a bit of Jefferson Airplane in here, that’s for sure.
C: There’s a structure to everything but there are these void spaces, too. And then there are straight songs too, which rock in this tight, urgent way and then blow into something else via a drum charge or a panned guitar solo or I don’t know what. I know I’m going Beavis here but I don’t know how to [clears throat] …ahem… properly articulate the sensations I am feeling as I listen to this album. For a long time I didn’t like Corin Tucker’s voice, but here? It’s like this is the setting it’s always been looking for.
D: And that’s some hotshit drumming for sure.
C: [dancing] I can’t believe it, but seriously, one must acknowledge what is happening here. This is higher than High on Fire. They are Queens of a more stoned Age!
D: An unheard of power monster, that singlehandedly, forever eradicates the notion that women have no balls.
C: [Gives puzzled look at D, then continues] I cannot account for what I am hearing. Cannot assimilate. How did this happen? Seriously. It’s a lidflipper, a real wig-frier. Can you name another band that seven albums into their career, supernovaed into this kind of territory? This is so rare. It reminds me of something that Michael Moorcock was saying the other day: “In the ‘60s, Dylan, Beatles, Beefheart et al. were all thinking on their feet, if they were thinking at all. While Dylan remained a Guthrie sound-a-like he had no real credibility (although he did bring Guthrie a wider audience, I’d guess). As Dylan dumped the Guthrie cloak, especially when he went electric, he gained authenticity. The less like Buddy Holly the Beatles sounded, the better they got. Eventually, you went into a studio not knowing what you’d come out with.” I think that may be what’s happened here with Sleater-Kinney. Maybe this record just happened. Maybe we are witnessing the joy of unplanned, no-thinking, no-rules spontaneous creativity, of these three amazing women following and trusting their muse, confident in their abilities and each other to give it a trust that most other artists cower from giving these days? In any event, it’s an extraordinary creative breakthrough record made at precisely the right time by artists working at the peak of their collective rock power. That they are women in a stupid, male-centric culture doing this makes the whole thing even more important and inspirational. I want to go door-to-door like an evangelist for this record: “Hey sisters and brothers, have you heard the Good News?” But the old doors don’t exist after this album. They’ve all been blown open.
D: Word to your moms, Sleater-Kinney drop bombs.

Oneida
The Wedding
(Jagjaguwar)
C: New one from New York underground trance/art-rockers Oneida: a favorite around the Arthur offices for years now.
D: [Listening to “The Eiger”] They’re using strings?!?
C: Yes! This sounds amazing. The songs are catchier, there’s more dynamics in the structure, the arrangements are more varied. And the production is just nuts. This is another huge artistic breakthrough. Damn…
D: Something is in the air… Something good. A new scent.
C: Shit! Listen to how the keys get sucked out of the soundfield [on “Lavender”]… Listen to the almost-Espers psych-folk that is “Run Through My Hair.” “High Life” is an optimistic vocal over a total Kraftwerk/Cluster/La Dusseldorf electronic bed that changes into something more organic… “Did I Die” is like Wolf Eyes without the noise, [chuckles] whatever that means. Wow. I can’t believe this album…
D: It’s true, it’s beautiful.
C: Listen to how massive the drums are on “Spirits” and “Heavenly Choir,” and how majestic the guitar is. These are their “Kashmir”’s, their “When the Levee Breaks,” and this album is their Physical Graffiti…
D: We are in the presence of genius, manifesting itself.

Angels of Light
The Angels of Light Sing “Other People”
(Young God)
D: Who is this? It sounds like Johnny Cash with the Up With People choir or the Beach Boys singing backup.
C: It’s the new album by Angels of Light. You know, Michael Gira from Swans’ new band. Well, if you can be on “new” when you’re on your fourth album.
D: The most brutal, dealing-with-ultimate-things band ever?
C: None other. He moved away from that a while ago, but this one is sort of the moment when it all comes together for him. [listening to “Destroyer”] Listen to how amazing this: is that a mellotron, or strings? [Skipping through the record] And glockenspiels? Shit! This whole record is soaked in the most resplendent bittersweet textures, never getting sappy or fruity or corny in any way. Not an easy thing to do, for anyone. And for it to come from the man who wrote “Raping a Slave”? Fuck…
D: [smiling beatifically] I am shocked, once again, in a pleasantly happy way. He’s aging well, into something elegant and striking in his own way. Kinda like Nick Cave.
C: It is really beautiful, and represents the third risky, radical creative breakthrough THAT SUCCEEDS we’ve heard this session. So exciting to be in the presence of artists when they’re going for it like this.

Boredoms
Seadrum/House of Sun
(Vice)
C: And now…would you believe…? NEW BOREDOMS! Yoshimi sings a capella…and then this…[wave of drums crashes in]
D: [musing] We appear to be living in magical times.
C: 45 minutes, two tracks, completely different from each other. It says one thing: “Fuck off (in a good way). We are Boredoms. And we cannot be denied. We will now share this with you.”
D: Please place this on infinite repeat while I unclog every stuck nerve ending in my elderly body. Music…music…music…Boredoms… Boredoms… is…life.

Brain Donor
Brain Donor
(MisterE/Revolver)
D: I don’t whether to pump my fist in the air or punch myself in the face.
C: Who would have guessed that Julian Cope would be making this sort of rubber-burning rock’n’roll what, 25 years down the line?
D: His head is out on the highway. And he’s stuck in sixth gear.
C: Julian calls them a stupor group. Doggen, the guitarist, plays in Spiritualized, as does drummer Kevlar. They wear neon facepaint and have empty thought balloons over their heads. They’re like the Rutles version of the Stooges: songs that are just as good, with better lyrics. Dig the song titles: “My Pagan Ass,” “Shaman U.F.O.”
D: [shimmying] My pagan ass! My pagan ass!
C: This is a compilation CD, selections from the Brain Donor’s two previous discs that were only released in the UK. Now America can welcome Brain Donor with open heads.
D: If these gentlemen are really donating their brains, I need to go to the brain bank and get one.

Turbonegro
The ResErection DVD
(MVD)
D: Aha, Turbonegro! “IT’S DEATH TIME!” They ARE rock ‘n roll! In the gay sailor style of Norway!
C: I will explain D’s outburst of Turbonegroist passion to the gentle readers of Arthur.
D: [muttering] So arrogant!
C: I heard that, D. And I will remember. Oh yes. I will remember.
D: [muttering] So smug!
C: Shut up and let me do the thing that needs to be done. [to tape recorder] This is Turbonegro’s Some Kind of Monster, the story of “how the bandmobile went off the road in 1998,” it says here, and what happened next. Could Hank von Helvete recover from heroin addiction and other assorted mental problems and don the black cape and Alice Cooper makeup again? Could the Absolut-guzzling band of self-professed “death punk” godfathers successfully re-buddy after four years apart? Would anyone care? Would—
D: OF COURSE PEOPLE CARE! This is Turbonegro! [singing] “Whoa-oh-oh/I’ve got ERECTION!”
C: The other difference between Turbonegro and Metallica is that Turbonegro seem quite comfortable being gay. I do not know if they are actually gay, but they play a gay band onstage and on camera with a great deal of affection and commitment and sense of humor. Fear of a Gay Planet is the general concept.
D: [Watching Hank show off a vat of cod liver oil outside the local maritime museum where he worked for a couple of summers.] Look at this! This is better than A Mighty Wind!
C: We visit Hank’s seaside sanctuary, where he lived for four years, rebuilding his life. “The only thing that kept me alive were my grandparents and my belief in God,” he says, then compares himself to Napoleon in exile: “I was supposed to be emperor of Europe, but I’m kept prisoner of reality.” We do not know if he is joking, which is how the entire film is, it’s as outrageously straight-faced as comic atrocities like Alan Partridge or The Office or League of Gentlemen or—I’m feeling generous—Neil Hamburger in his most sublimely awful, banal moments. That kind of rare, supergenius thing. I don’t know if I’m doing it justice…? [looking on screen] But Hank is now showing us around his hometown: “Let’s stroll in the realm of dry fish…”
D: I still think they based their entire sound on the Dictators!
C: Ha! You’re right! Hank’s real stage name should be Gruesome Dick Manitoba.
D: They are like the Hives’ evil reverse twins.
C: The Hives give 1000% every time, but as Happy Tom says here, Turbonegro give 50, maybe 60 percent. The interviewer asks if they may get 80% this time? “I don’t think that’s ever happened,” says Tom.
D: It’s a cracker! A classic! [Thinks hard.] It’s This Is Spinal Tap—by Chris Morris!!!

BBQ
Tie Your Noose
(Bomp!)
C: Now here’s a one-man garage band, do it and doing it well. Makes the two-piece garage band seem passé.
D: Does that mean he practices in a one-car garage?
C: Fire up the grill, this is a fatback slab of that raunchy, rib-rocking goodness. It’s like Bob Log III and Doo Rag in one.
D: Yes, in one big barbecue pit! Which he probably dug out behind his garage.
C: “Don’t Hold Out On Me” is the hit.
D: I think it sounds like someone singing the Hives in the shower. Really, it’s that good.
C: Nice to see such a fine release on the Bomp! imprint, furthering the cause of Bomp! honcho Greg Shaw, may he rock in peace.

Radar Bros.
The Fallen Leaf Pages
(Merge)
C: One of Los Angeles’ subtle treasures, and group that explains the pastoral side to LA that only residents really know about. This music has a calming, benign presence.
D: It gives me the feeling I get from “Dear Prudence.” Or my very favorite song, “Something In The Air” by Thunderclap Newman.
C: The Radars absolutely own this gentle shuffle tempo. But I think they’d loan it out to anyone who wanted it. Although sometimes the lyrics are darker than you’d expect…
D: I believe he just sang, “I am the stable in which the ass has laid his manure.”
C: Walk, don’t run to pick this up. Or better yet, lope.
D: Yes, amble on.
C: There is something about this that puts me in the mindset of lightning bugs in a jar. And the most wistful of Muppets songs. You can always count on Jim Putnam to take one great whistling solo per album, and he comes through here again.
D: This truly Floyd-ian, I mean Mettle-era Floyd. The dreaminess of it, it’s positively molassesfying.
C: David Gilmour is on the phone, says the Floyd is playing the Pyramids again, and will the Radars kindly open? Could happen.
D: Should happen.

Lee Perry
I Am the Upsetter four-cd boxset
(Trojan/Sanctuary)
D: “Satan is public enemy number one.” You know, this may be my favorite music have to do with organized religion.
C: Sweet soul singing by Max Romeo. The production on these… it’s like all these sounds aren’t allowed to exist anymore, I can’t imagine a contemporary producer getting anywhere near this. Anyways, since Lee Perry was rediscovered about ten years ago, there’ve been a lot of re-releases and vaultpilations…including the Arkology three-disk set which was a big hit with a lot of people. But this is really special—it’s digestible, it’s got all the great shit on it, it covers everything from the obvious Bob Marley and the Wailers stuff to cuts even dedicated Scratch diggers may never have heard before—like “All Over” by Eccols & Neville, which is actually Clancy Eccols and Bunny Wailer. Spans 1968 to 1978, so much went by, the world changed so much. So many artists went from next-level to the pits, but Lee Perry maintained this wonderful, playful energy…
D: I am a great admirer of the well-played unison horn line.
C: [listening to “Black Panta”] I mean what’s going on here? There is a spatial distance in dub music, a relationship between the listener and the music that’s just completely, profoundly different from any other kind of music.
D: It’s like growing a third ear from the center of your forehead.
C: Seeing a stretch of the color spectrum that you’d never been shown before. I love that there are all these skank songs on here. [Looking sternly at D.] Ahem. The ORIGINAL meaning of skank, which just means Lee is gonna scratch a certain rhythm that’s gonna make you dance the Jamaican version of the funky chicken…
D: [with eyes closed] The echo makes the music sound like it’s talking to itself. For someone who uses so much delay, he certainly was on time.
C: I always thought Lee Perry’s physique, short and lean, so much finely toned power in his arms, was represented in his music. I always think of him as the producer, working the board, making compact energetic music. Totally dynamic. Full presence, just infusing everything. All sides of him are there: the playful side, the mischievous side, the judgmental side, the father side where he puts his child in there, crying. Wailing. Pleading. And mixing that in to a song that says “for god’s sake give more justice to the people”? Amazing.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Worn Copy
(Paw Tracks)
C: [listening to opening instrumental] This sounds like one of those cheap John Carpenter scores, recorded underwater. In the wrong kind of water.
D: Cheese is not a virtue, except in certain hands.
C: These are not the right hands. [listening to “Jules Lost His Jewels”] Although…you know, some of this is actually pretty catchy. If only Mr. low-budget Wings here weren’t so stuck on recording underwater with such tragically awful sounding instruments.
D: So judgmental, you are. I think this might be a grower not a shower. [grabbing the CD out of the player] I will examine it more at home and report back next issue!

Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan
Prospect Hummer EP
(Fat Cat)
C: Playful, rules-less, suffused with love…. Vashti and the AC boys harmonizing on these quiet little melodies… Whistles and phased waves of glowing acoustic guitars and… Is that a steel drum? Whoa. These guys are on such a hot streak right now. So wonderful to hear Vashti’s voice again, last year’s duet with Devendra wasn’t enough. This is a wower. You could play it for anyone: children, grandparents, sullen teenagers even…
D: [listening to title track] I think the oompa-loomas are coming.
C: Unbelievable dub-like production—there’s a real unique sense of space and place here too. Where do these people live? Somewhere in Sweden, Lee Perry awakens from his slumber…
D: [blissed out] It’s womblike. Feels like coming home from the greatest picnic ever.

Colleen
The Golden Morning Breaks
(The Leaf Label)
C: …And this is what it feels like when you’re in REM sleep, later. Music in miniature.
D: Mini-minimalism. Beatless.
C: So still. Satieists. A phased, handcranked music box. If a Joesph Cornell box had a sound… Wind chimes, plucked guitar figures.
D: Very cinematic. Makes me think of Bjork, Kubrick, City of Lost Children, Jeunet/Caro.
C: Colleen are (is?) Aphex Twin’s ambient grandchildren. Like Eno was for a while, Aphex Twin is no longer a man, he’s an adjective.
D: This is what I always hoped ambient music would sound like. Don’t throw the baby out with analog bubblebathwater!
C: … [pauses] Can I have some of whatever it is that you are on?

The Geto Boys
The Foundation
(Rap-A-Lot)
D: Who is this?
C: You know who this is.
D: The Geto Boys! Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill, together forever. Unless my mind is playing tricks on me, which is has been known to do.
C: You were right the first time, D. You may now take off the blindfold.
D: After all these years, they certainly are keeping it gangsta.
C: And yet it’s soul music. From the soul, of the soul, and the slower songs on here are actually sweet soul music.
D: You know, when I’m feeling homicidal, this music calms me down.
C: I appreciate that. More than you know.
D: Well if I didn’t know, now I know!

Neil Hamburger
Great Moments at Di Presa’s Pizza House
(Drag City)
C: On the other hand, when I’m feeling suicidal…I think of Neil Hamburger, self-proclaimed “TV comic” and “American funnyman.” [Listens to CD for a few minutes.] Well, this is a new low. Which is what you catch yourself thinking every time there’s a new Neil Hamburger album, but by now it’s clear that there is no bottom.
D: What is this? [to stereo] Tell some jokes already!
C: Heckling a CD is not the same as heckling a performer, unfortunately. One thing you can say about Neil Hamburger is he’s remarkably consistent. No matter where he plays—an expat nightclub in Malaysia, a greyhound racing park in Tempe, Arizona, a pipe organ-equipped pizza parlor in Northern California—he’s always just terrible, just desperately unfunny. You know what you’re getting with Neil Hamburger. The only surprise is how much worse he’s managed to get since the last time you heard him.

Yellow Pills: Refill
(Numero Group)
C: 33 power-pop 45s by super-obscure one-shot artists, compiled with mindblowing meticulousness and liner note cleverness by an obvious labor-of-lover: this guy Jordan Oaks, who used to do a zine called Yellow Pills. I gotta cop to it, I never heard of the zine, never heard any of these songs.
D: Man! A lot of these really should have been hits. Especially the Toms? As Dr. John and the Meters would say, They were in the wrong place.
C: This drawing of Jon Brion is incredible, when he was like 14 and a member of a band called The Bats.
D: I don’t know about this one…
C: If you don’t like one song, another will be along in two minutes. You’ll be able to find a seat on one of them. [pauses] You know D, we’ve received a lot of letters asking why we are called C & D…
D: We choose to remain anonymous.
C: I bet these bands didn’t want to be anonymous.
D: Well… life’s like that, sometimes.

The Ponys
Celebration Castle
(In the Red)
D: Must be The Ponys. Cuz it sounds like Voidoids and Television.
C: Yep. Less Hellish than before, though, I think.
D: [listening to the chorus of “Glass Conversation”] Now they are rocking!
C: And check out this guitar sound. It doesn’t matter what they play on their solos—although what he’s playing is cool—the sounds they are getting are enough for me. Yes! The solo on “Discoteca” is really simple but it SOUNDS wonderful. That’s like their second signature, after the dude’s voice. [listening to “Today”] Wow this goes into a blues thing in the middle, very cool. No wonder they were on that Junior Kimbrough tribute record, it’s all making sense now.
D: [philosophical] This is more like the first album than the first one was… [listening to “We Shot This World,” shaking head like a tumbler.] The difficult second album is not so difficult for the Ponys!
C: Our little Ponys have all grown up.

Spoon
Gimme Fiction
(Merge)
D: Sounds like the Kinks in a troubled mood.
C: But look they pull out a chorus—a melody like what the Walkmen wish they could do, and I don’t mean to damn with faint praise there.
D: Great album opener.
C: It’s like they’re gonna confront the Kinks Klone critique head-on and then go from there… This is their best shit ever, and their shit has always been fresh. The songs are better put together… listen to the counter-melodies and harmonies… even strings… Like the Left Banke, except not so fussy, or even SF Sorrow-era Pretty Things… Tight psychedelic-tinged upbeat soul rock. This song [“I Turn My Camera On”] is total disco! When he does falsetto, he sounds like what Beck tries to do. If they has strings swoop in we’d have Chic…
D: Maybe they’re saving that for the next album, which I am already eagerly awaiting.
D: [listening to “My Mathematical Mind”] Another cinematic record. There is a hint of John Barry in the air. I picture Oliver Reed in 1965 on the prowl, on the way to a party, or the scene of a crime, whichever he reaches first. Americans are making great English music again!

Weird War
Illuminated by the Light
(Drag City)
C: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Weird Warlord Ian Svenonius is an Arthur contributor.
D: That guitar tone sounds straight from a robot’s butt. Is he playing one of those keyboard guitar things?
C: It’s called a keytar.
D: I don’t know if I can take anyone playing a keytar seriously. I believe this is supposed to be funky but it does not swing.
C: Svenonius output always divides the crowd. I dig some of this album, but the real undeniable gemwork here is the album art, which is like a Neapolitan version of what Pedro Bell used to draw for Funkadelic LPs.
D: Yes, keep the great artwork, but maybe they should head in a different direction musically.
C: I’ve heard they’re going to do a Grateful Dead tribute called Weir War.
D: …
C: Sorry.

Death in Vegas
Satan’s Circus
(Drone)
D: New Death in Vegas? Excellent! That song with Hope Sandoval and the Indian violinist on the last album was a high point global civilization.
C: No guest vocalist this time.
D: It’s very krautrockian. And Human League. And Gary Numan, the guy that we all hated, because he had bad teeth… always trying to combine the robotic and emotive. He had that pretentious super-serious look mixed with looking like a yuppie. It was bound to fail. Now he’s a cult hero. Just goes to show that every shit you throw against the wall might come down as gold. Write that down!
C: [Writing it down] Very Cluster. And the second track here…listen to this…
D: THEY ARE COVERING KRAFTWERK’S ‘TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS’!?! Unbelievable! That’s balls!
C: These guys have got to be total stoners. They are just fucking around, having fun. You can hear how much they’re digging this.
D: Roedelius, Harmonia, all those guys… I can hear this being played in a German countryside on a nice Sunday afternoon. Very evocative, simplistic—I love it. There’s a track called “Heil Xanax”? Another one called “Sons of Rother”? I give up. They are the victors.
C: The record is so committed to the style.
D: To me, this could be played in a stadium. “Reigen” is a German word for the old-world, Middle Ages a come-together, a joyous come together where you dance around the maypole, so there’s a Wicker Man aspect to it. This shows insane respect and love for a very specific genre. They are saying, Excuse us while we pay tribute to our love.

Josephine Foster
Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You
(Locust Music)
C: Speaking of Wicker Man.
D: Speaking of Jefferson Airplane.
C: Speaking of genius.
D: Speaking of…speechless.
C: She’s been in Arthur before, but… Damn. This is my favorite work yet by one of my favorite voices in the world. Her most conventional songwriting, really, with fantastic arrangements and playing. All by Josephine herself. It’s not harsh like Born Heller could be, not as histrionic as last year’s Supposed album was… I think people will now find out what the big deal is…
D: So many big deals right now, most of them female!
C: I know. Feels like a new dawning, a new birthing, a new burst of feminine energy is going on, doesn’t it?
D: Yes.
C: I can’t wait to hear what happens next…

"Dizzying Heights": Animal Collective interviewed by Trinie Dalton (Arthur No. 19/Nov. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 19 (Nov. 2005)

Dizzying Heights
How do the four humble critters that are Animal Collective make such wildly beautiful and beguiling sounds?
By Trinie Dalton

As pathetic as this sounds, I originally started listening to Animal Collective because they were an “animal band,” and I make a point of hearing all new animal bands because I’m obsessed with animals. There are so many animal bands these days, especially lupine ones: Wolf Eyes, Wolf Parade, Wolfmother…I figure anyone who names their band after animals must like animals too, so we have something in common, and maybe they’re also into classic animal bands, like The Animals and The Turtles. So far, this theory for checking out new bands has worked, and I like most animal bands. But Animal Collective are by far the best. They’re King of the Jungle.

This is an especially lame confession because the members of Animal Collective barely even like having a name; they’d much prefer to be individuals who come together in various combos and in various locations to make intriguingly titled albums, like Danse Manatee, Campfire Songs, or Here Comes the Indian, sans band name. That’s one refreshing thing about Animal Collective: they aren’t glory hogs. In animal terms, they’re like prairie dogs, bees, or penguins—humble critters that understand the definition of teamwork. In the beginning, Animal Collective often wore masks and costumes hiding their individual identities, and they’ve always used nicknames to keep alive the secret society element of what they do: Dave Portner is Avey Tare, Brian Weitz is Geologist, Josh Dibbs is Deakin, and Noah Lennox is Panda Bear. Having a band name is too traditional, they say; they only have one because record labels have told them that listeners need to identify the group as a cohesive, named unit.

Which is important, because Animal Collective are one of those rare bands who sound completely different live and on record. Sung Tongs, their last full-length album, is infused with psychedelic wall-of-sound production, Brian Wilson-style. Sung Tongs is so classic it gives me chills. I imagine Sung Tongs on the cover of that Arthur issue 50 years from now featuring the best albums of the past century. The cool part is, I’ll recall how I nearly went deaf hearing tweaky live versions of harmonious tunes like “Leaf House” and “Kids On Holiday.” On headphones, certain Animal Collective songs sound sleepy and hypnotic, while live those same songs make the club’s floor vibrate from heavy bass and guitar distortion. Hearing Animal Collective live is nearly my favorite pastime. Recently, while living in Berlin, I was so dying to see them that I almost flew hundreds of miles to southern France to catch their gig. Getting a grip, I reminded myself that this was a little extreme, not to mention expensive. Each show is different, though: live versions of songs render them unrecognizable or mutate into new songs, so you can’t say, I’ll just stay home and listen to the album.

Feels, Animal Collective’s new release, is heavily injected with sentiment without being sappy. Dedicated to such lofty romantic themes as Love, Purple (the color of passion) and (they say) “synchronicity, or connections between people,” Feels is highly emotive. As opposed to Sung Tongs’ choral vocal layerings and druggy nods to Smiley Smile, Feels contains fewer vocal harmonies but compensates with an abundance of rock-out moments balanced by a “warm hum” of instruments. I can’t wait to see these songs performed live, since the instrumentation on Feels is so elusive. This new record also further distinguishes Animal Collective from the Freakfolk bands they’ve sometimes been lumped together with. I never thought they sounded even remotely folky; Feels instead sounds a lot more influenced by their early inspirations, My Bloody Valentine and Pavement.

Animal Collective are childhood friends. Noah and Josh met in second grade in their hometown, Baltimore. In 1996, Josh hooked up with Brian and Dave, who were also high school buddies from Maryland. They all hung out sporadically throughout college, and by 2000, they were all living in New York, where they recorded and released Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, which gave them their first taste of success. Since then, they’ve made several albums and started a record label, Paw Tracks, home to artists like Ariel Pink and The Peppermints. Prospect Hummer, their last record, is testament to all the European touring they’ve done; they met and recruited Vashti Bunyan in England for vocals on it. Three of the band left New York years ago—Noah for Lisbon, Brian for D.C., and Dave for Europe—so Animal Collective functions via satellite, in a way, until they convene for recording sessions and tours. Even interviewing them was a feat—I received four separate phone calls from around the world—although I really enjoyed it because Animal Collective were so friendly. Each man spoke highly of the others, discussing how the group sound has evolved instead of geeking out on who plays what. They gave uncannily similar answers, and Brian confessed that Animal Collective may know each other “too well.” I had this feeling before, but I know it now—Animal Collective are four best friends committed to experimenting and having fun.
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Friday, October 16th – Vashti Bunyan: Exclusive Live Performance & NYC Documentary Premiere

Cult 60’s singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan takes a break from recording her new album with Andy Cabic from Vetiver to perform a one-off, exclusive acoustic set at the 92YTribeca venue in New York on Friday, October 16, in support of the screening of the critically acclaimed documentary Vashti Bunyan : From Here To Before.

“A gorgeously shot, achingly intimate portrait.” Time Out

For many cult artists, rediscovery comes too late, they never live to know their art has been reappraised, is being loved by generations not even born when they were at work. In the case of Vashti Bunyan, the “Godmother of Freak Folk” and muse to artists such as Devendra Banhart and the Animal Collective, 30 years of obscurity ended with the rediscovery in 2000 of her lost classic album “Just Another Diamond Day” and her subsequent reintroduction into a mainstream she was never part of in the first place. The fact that the record was inspired by a very British road trip – an end to end journey across the country by horse and carriage – has only helped mythologise Vashti’s life and career. Ben Ratliff of The New York Times describes it as “a 700-mile journey [that] took two summers. Her story — or what is known of it from her interviews and her songs — is a perfectly preserved hippie tale, full of ideals, heartbreak and sleeping outdoors, and not arriving on time.”

From Here To Before is a wonderfully evocative film that retraces Vashti’s extraordinary journey across the British Isles, setting it against the backdrop of Vashti preparing for her first ever high profile London concert. It also features rare interviews with music luminaries Andrew Loog Oldham, Joe Boyd and the recently deceased Robert Kirby who provide an honest and informative insight into the most creative period of recorded popular music and Vashti’s place within it.

Following the screening on Friday, October 16, Vashti Bunyan and director Kieran Evans will take questions from the audience and then later that evening, Vashti will grace the stage at 92YTribeca for a rare acoustic performance. It promises to be a very special night. Support on the night will come from folk experimentalist Matteah Baim.

Additionally, following the screening of From Here To Before on Saturday, October 17, Vashti Bunyan and director Kieran Evans will be in attendance to answer questions from the audience.

Film (two screenings): Friday, October 16th – 7:30PM & Saturday, October 17th – 7:30PM
Music: Friday, October 16th, Doors 9:30PM
92YTribeca
200 Hudson Street / New York, NY 10013
$12 for film screening, $15 for music, $22 for both.

Buy tickets here.

(((BIG SUR)))

ac_poster_o

poster for the (((folk yeah))) Animal Collective show at the Henry Miller Library. 

mistclovers

collecting giant clovers in the misty mountains for crowns.

library

DubLab’s Tonalism event was an awesome sound experiment* 

matthewdavid 

matthewdavid (www.leavingrecords.com) performing under katie byron’s quilt installation. bee-you-tea-ful!

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trees

RAINBOW projections into the forest***

photos by Alia Penner & John Wyatt

How to Get Into the Grateful Dead (originally pub’d in Arthur No. 18/Sept 2005)

LISTEN TO THE DEAD

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept 2005)

Dear Arthur,
Okay, so a lot of people in Arthur have been coming out of the Deadhead closet lately [cf. “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band”, Arthur No. 11]. Someone, maybe Bastet, maybe someone else, should put out a mix CD or two of some of the Dead’s material that might be most likely to impress the contemporary drone/noise/psych/improv and/or free(k) folk scene(s). I have enjoyed a very small percentage of the G.D. that I have heard, and have been unwilling to delve through the catalog in search of the gems. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and would like to hear a carefully selected mix made by discerning ears. Example: Garcia solo piece on Zabriskie Point soundtrack.
Rick Swan
via email

Dear Rick,
There are over 2,800 Grateful Dead shows available for free download at archive.org, and depending on who you talk to at least a half-dozen studio albums worth checking out. That’s a lot of music to sort through, even if you can get your hands on most of it without laying down any cash. We convened a conclave of reconstructed Deadheads in order to help you and any other greenhorn seekers of the Dead find your way around. The Knights present for this meeting were:

Geologist, a member of Animal Collective, that incredible international post-hippie string band.
N. Shineywater, of Alabama’s creamiest slow-folk practitioners, Brightblack Morning Light. It is worth nothing that Brightblack’s cover of “Brokedown Palace” with Will Oldham on vocals makes us weep.
Ethan Miller, of the mighty Comets on Fire.
Daniel Chamberlin, a contributing editor at Arthur, and the author of “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band” (Arthur No. 11) about life as a closet Deadhead.
Denise DiVitto & Brant Bjork: Owner-operators of Duna Records, which releases records by Mr. Bjork (co-founder of Kyuss) and other worthy artists. Two mellow souls who hang in the desert.
Erik Davis, Arthur contributor, native Californian and the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information.
Barry Smolin, the host of the essential “The Music Never Stops” Dead showcase on Los Angeles’s KPFK, 90.7 FM.
Michael Simmons, a contributing editor to Arthur.
The Seth Man, a/k/a The Seth Man, editor of FUZ and author of “The Book of Seth” on Julian Cope’s website.

PART ONE

GEOLOGIST (Animal Collective)
The birth of my father was a mistake; an unplanned pregnancy in the 1950s. As a result, his brothers, and my cousins, are much older. During the ’80s, my cousin Adam was my idol. I was in grade school, he was in high school and later went to college in Athens, GA. The guy was all about “rock & roll.” He had Live…Like A Suicide by Guns N’ Roses on vinyl in 1986. He predicted the worldwide stardom of REM and the B-52’s as far back as I can remember. But his first musical love was, and as far as I know, still is The Grateful Dead. By the end of the ’80s he had been to over 100 shows.

As I got older and began to hunger for more music than what was being fed to me on MTV, I of course turned to him. Like any true Deadhead, my cousin immediately pushed me towards their live material. His Dead collection was just a box of tapes with dates written on them; I don’t really remember seeing any albums. It is to this aspect of the Dead’s output that I would direct any new fan. I listen to the ’66-’74 era, pretty much exclusively. An easy place to start is the live albums released during this period, specifically Live/Dead (from ’69) and Europe ’72. The former has my all-time favorite Dead jam, “Dark Star” into “St. Stephen,” and the latter contains my second favorite, “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” (affectionately known to Dead fans as “China Rider”). In addition, there is a killer CD release of a Fillmore East show from 2/11/69, which has some of the same tunes. And for 1974, the Winterland shows from February of that year totally rule, even though you have to endure the awful background singing of Donna Godchaux.

I certainly don’t mean to discount the worth of their studio albums, because there is no denying the greatness of Anthem Of The Sun, Aoxomoxoa and American Beauty. I love them all and listen to them frequently, but I still lean towards the live stuff. The reason for this is simply “good times.” I recently got into an argument at a bar about whether or not you can give credit to someone for nothing more than “good times.” I say you totally can. Why not? Isn’t that pretty much what most of us want on a day-to-day basis? I was fortunate enough to see the Dead on one of their last tours in 1994. I was 15 years old, and had moved from Philly to Baltimore, where I was in the early stages of becoming best friends with the dudes I still consider my closest friends in the world. At the time, however, I dearly missed my old friends from middle school. They managed to get tickets to the Dead show at the Philly Spectrum, and my parents, being the wonderful folks they are, let me skip school for three days and hop on the train to catch the show. Jerry may have been old and forgotten some lyrics here and there, but man, good times were had by all. I’ve never since been in an environment as positive as that concert. As people who are passionate about music, especially music that is outside of the mainstream, we sometimes get caught up in our own brand of snobbery. But when I catch myself acting like a dick, I try and think back to that night wandering around the burrito stands and hacky-sack circles in that parking lot. If people continue to care about the music we make and continue to come see us play, I really hope our parking lots will look and feel like that one day. Good times.

N. SHINEYWATER (Brightblack Morning Light)
Early-era Dead songs resonate with me, so I would maybe dig a collection of songs featuring Pig Pen. The first recording I heard by Grateful Dead also served as a successful backdrop to a good time. It involved my native Alabama woods, an old Jeep chasing another old Jeep through the mud, and the constant doobie. The friend of mine who was driving the jeep let The Dead’s American Beauty repeat over and over … Somehow a very long early-version of the song “Dark Star” appeared on the homemade cassette, and when this came on we had just taken a doobie break. One friendly sister starting throwing mud at me so I threw mud back at her and the next thing I saw was this dancing grey mud flying and hitting smiling bodies of friends.

One time this same Jeep-friend has to drive across the country in a new Ford van. He happened to know he was going to be using reefer along the way. The van had only one sticker, plain in style, that read, “GOOD OL” really large, followed very small by “GRATEFUL DEAD.” It wasn’t the kind with little orange bears; it was red, white and blue. He chose this plain sticker to avoid attracting the Man. Yet he knew that he wanted to share his love of Grateful Dead music. It was a risk he didn’t mind taking.

Later in life he led a Greenpeace effort to successfully lower himself and a few others over the side of the Mitsubishi building in Oregon with banners that read, “BOYCOTT MITSUBISHI, MITSUBISHI DESTROYS RAINFORESTS.” The last I heard of him he became a river guide.

ETHAN MILLER (Comets On Fire)
First off, I also loved that article by Daniel Chamberlin in the July 2004 Arthur also and found it very inspiring to try and track down the more extreme avant-garde Dead stuff that the author of that piece talks about being fooled that it was Dead C. or Sonic Youth or whatever.
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Merriweather Postponed Pavilion

So if you’re in Southern California and you had tickets for one of the two canceled Animal Collective shows this weekend — canceled due to sickness, so no bad vibes — you are no doubt very bummed. Doubly bummed now that the AC site is encouraging ticket holders to contact the point of purchase for a refund, i.e. the shows aren’t being rescheduled.

Your contributing editor has been elevated to the point of ecstatic laughter at an Animal Collective performance on the Sung Tongs tour, and he has walked out early from a disorienting and rather grating show when they were out pushing Strawberry Jam. It appears as if this current tour was of a quality suggesting the former experience, as in true jam band fashion AC has been taking older songs from their back catalog and re-rubbing their edges to fit into the gloriously swirling forms of the transcendent Merriweather Post Pavilion.

To get a sense of what we Southern Californians missed out on, we direct you toward NYC Taper’s excellent AUD recording of their January 21, 2009 Bowery Ballroom show. Put the “My Girls” house-building anthem video on repeat, mute the audio and let the reel-to-reel roll. (Re: the video. How many granola jam-band credits do you get for rocking a headlamp on stage? Enough to counterbalance the lack of hairy chinspace?)

It was just last year that Arthur pal Zach Cowie, in his 2007 year-end list of favorite things, predicted that “homeboys are about five seconds away from having a tapers section.” Now, a year later, and this is definitely the reality. NYC Taper’s show is the best we’ve heard, but if you find something as good or better here in this Animal Collective dot org archive of live recordings, drop us a line in the comments.

And while we’re at it, Arthur contributor Trinie Dalton — who profiled AC for the cover of Arthur 19 (Nov 2005) — catches up with the band once again for LA Citybeat. Read “The Polka Dot Lives On” here.

Animal Collective will be back for shows all up and down the West Coast — including an already sold-out (DANG) stop at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur — in May.

UPDATE:
Read a take on the aforementioned Bowery Ballroom show (written by one of our favorite Deadheads, natch) over at the Village Voice.

(thanks to Raspberry Jones for the AC dot org tip!)