If you haven’t heard of Vashti Bunyan, then you haven’t been paying attention to the hordes of folk artists desperate to revive her name and music. Championed by the likes of Devendra Banhart, Bunyan had one album to her name and a semi-hit single penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Just Another Diamond Day was Bunyan’s only full-length effort, released in 1970 and produced by Joe Boyd, who also produced records for Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Richard and Linda Thompson and the McGarrigle sisters. Although it’s always ‘hip’ to rediscover something obscure, Bunyan’s smooth and earthy voice is what has been attracting the attention of fans of the ‘new-folk’ movement. She has, since her ‘reemergence,’ been recruited by the likes of Four Tet, Devendra Banhart, Piano Magic, and now with the Prospect Hummer EP, Animal Collective.
Sounding a little more calm and lush than their brilliant album Sung Tongs, three-fourths of Prospect Hummer are showcases for Bunyan’s magnificent voice. Autoharp and weaving vocal gymnastics make up opener “It’s You” and the song, at first seeming simple and lovely, is much more. If it’s possible for a song to reach down into the earth and channel nature, then this song has achieved it. The title track has a little more going on with, gasp, an actual drum track (!), acoustic guitar, and more of a pop feel. That is, of course, until about 1:40 into the song when the group plus Vashti throw out some `wah-wah-wahs,’ then the song does a 90 degree turn into a new song altogether.
Animal Collective collaborator Geologist returns with “Baleen Sample” which yes, contains what sounds like whalesong samples. I just kept thinking of Jacques Cousteau (or parodically Steve Zissou) and his undersea films while listening to this track. Vashti returns to sing on the last track, “I Remember Learning How to Dive,” a song which is probably the closest in feel to the tracks on Sung Tongs. Animal Collective should have finished recording their next full length in March which means we should be seeing it in stores by fall at the latest. In the meantime, Prospect Hummer is a welcome stopgap filler, whetting the appetite for their unique style of folk, with the legendary Vashti Bunyan along for the ride. Hopefully this will also introduce more people to both artists. Bunyan fans can discover Animal Collective and vice versa and the world will be a happy place.