After the release of Sung Tongs and Feels, Animal Collective had gone from being that weird cult band that a few friends of mine liked to being critically adored and even somewhat popular. And it makes sense; with each release, the group has pushed further into accessible realms, all the while remaining as bizarre as a pop group, if you can call them that, possibly can be. They even have videos that have shown on Subterranean for chrissakes. And Panda Bear’s Person Pitch even sold 1,000 copies in its week of release—not bad.
Before the group found its way into indie hearts across the country, and the globe, they were a bit less of a pop group, a lot more tribal, and something much closer to the animals they claim to be. Early albums Danse Manatee and Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They Vanished introduced a truly bizarre sound experiment, not nearly as grating as noise rock, but certainly nowhere near the art-damaged Beach Boys sound they’ve evolved into. Their first moment of genius came with Here Comes the Indian, released in 2003 to some acclaim but relatively little hoopla. It only stands to reason; at the time people probably didn’t know what to make of it. After a minute of near silence, opener “Native Belle” explodes into weird campfire acid trip chanting. “Hey Light” erupts with manic screaming before ultimately transforming into a melodic psych rock flow. This stuff jars and provokes long before it truly sets in.
Once it does set in, the sound is something near heavenly. Over the course of eight minutes, “Infant Dressing Table” makes the journey from oblique, off-kilter sound collage to ambient sonic bliss. “Two Sails On a Sound,” a monster at 12 minutes, could pass for an outtake from Black Dice’s Beaches and Canyons, all swooshing landscapes of white noise. “Slippi,” though far from anything resembling a real single, is the closest thing to it here, just less than three minutes of loud guitar clang and rhythmic pounding, something like a feral form of garage rock.
In rewind, Here Comes the Indian may seem more aurally unnerving than recent Animal Collective output, but the line between it and Feels isn’t that far. There’s just a lot more noise here, and we all know that no matter what devices we humans may come up with, it’s really animals that make the most pure noises of all.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.