Animal Collective live bootleg showdown: Panda Bear vs. Deakin

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In the real world, as most understand it, judging, say, a race car driver based on practice laps or an author based on first drafts is patently unfair.

Of course, this isn't the real world. In the sphere of semi-professional music blogging, we have carte blanche to more or less do anything we want to do. In this case, we're pitting one January 2010 live solo set by a member of Animal Collective against another in order to figure out whose forthcoming disc we'll be rocking out to later in the year while wishing we could still get high.

Whatever AC mainstay Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox and AC auxiliary hand Josh "Deakin" Dibb have percolating on their digital 4-track machines right now is gonna have to be enough to sate AC fanatics until the group emerges from a self-imposed break - or until Avey Tare
and the Geologist can get their own individualist shit together.

Recordings

Panda Bear, performing on January 15, 2010 at Hebbel Am Ufer in Berlin, Germany; you can download the set directly here.

Deakin, performing on January 1, 2010 at the Ottobar in Baltimore, Maryland; go here to download the set.

(Pretty much every track here is untitled; sorry. But Panda's next album will be titled Tomboy.)

Vibe

If you're familiar with Lennox's previous effort -- 2006's peyote-trance escalator Person Pitch -- you probably think you know what to expect. You're wrong. Kinda.

While the trademark post-Lion King held-syllables are in place, the doillie-slight, pastel anti-textures Lennox spun and layered to consensus-seizing effect on Pitch have been replaced by a grimmer, less carefree feel: lower, darker notes and bass synth lines abound. The choppy, knockabout chime matrices featured on Merriweather Post Pavilion - see "Taste" - surface here. So it's Panda Bear, but Panda Bear kinda bummed out, if not anywhere near as justifiably bummed out as he was on aggreieved 2004 effort Young Prayer.

Dibb -- who just got back from playing a music fest in Mali that cost an ungodly sum in terms of travel expenses -- has generally been a background player in Animal Collective, which makes him a throughly unknown quantity. His work here hews closer to modern composition than to the day-glo psyche fantastia AC typically specialize in; austere and repetitive with intriguing sprinkes of samples, he makes songs that lend themselves better to conservatories. One combines piano and keyboard chords atop one another while his dry, effects-slashed voice and samples that either rustle or gush while sliding back and forth over the commingling of tones; another simulates the click-clack of typewriters and subsumes that sound in waves or iridescent feedback, as Dibb archly gets his Bernard Sumner on. His other two tracks are more conventional, though nicely odd: on one of them, he nakedly unspools emotions about the passing of his father over a loop of reverberating synth drift.

More than twice, the clink of drink glasses meeting or shattering appears in the mix, spiderwebbing the ambiance, suggesting that the taper was situated near an oafish waitstaff member or an epically soused patron. Part of me hoped that these disruptions, which felt unnervingly appropriate to what was happening onstage, were an actual part of the performance somehow. That same part of me hopes that while listening back, Dibbs notices those sounds, too, and incorporates them into whatever ultimate form his finished songs take.

Man-Boy Vocal Prowess

Panda has the better voice by a country mile, telescoping what could be a vicious yodel into something wrought with longing and loneliness and suburban tribalism. Deakin has the voice of somebody who doesn't sing lead, much; he's awkward and unsure of himself, and his burden will be either to discover a sense of confidence in what he's capable of, or to use the studio as a tool to distress his voice as a way to emerge with a sonic result that's singular but not totally singer-upfront-with-a-microphone.

Level of Precociousness

With 1 being "not precocious at all" and 10 representing "totally precocious," Panda's at maybe a 6, while Deakin's hovering at about a 3.

Surprise Covers

Panda busts out an uninspired "Daily Routine" while Deakin -- wisely -- looks forward.

Overall Promise

The emo indie hordes will prefer Tomboy as a salve to soothe the neverending, tre uncool recession blues, but personally, I'm more enthused for whatever Jonny Greenwood-ish abracadabra Deakin's got up his short sleeves.
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