Animal Collective (featuring Vashti Bunyan): Prospect Hummer
Dominic B. Simpson
There are few bands out there as weird and as warped as New York’s the Animal Collective. They call themselves Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Deakin. They play indescribable bonkers multi-layered psychedelic ethno-folk drone music whose exuberance and playful experimentalism seeped through every pore of 'Sung Tongs', their brilliant 2004 album (released on the magnificent Fat Cat label, home to Set Fire To Flames and Sigur Ros among others).
And they now return with the vocals of mysterious cult 60’s British folk singer Vashti Bunyan, a one-time chanteuse discovered by Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham who signed her to Decca records, whereupon she covered Jagger and Richard’s 'Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind' and appeared in Pink Floyd‘s groovy 60‘s docu-film Tonite Let‘s All Make Love In London. Instead of becoming the next Marianne Faithfull, however, there followed decades of reclusive living in a caravan on an isolated Scottish island, joining a cult spearheaded by Scottish folk nutter Donovan and taking part in various happenings that quite possibly resembled several of the scenes from 'The Wicker Man' (admittedly I don’t really know this last part, but who knows what japery a cult on an isolated Scottish island got up to?) Along the way, though, she did release one album, ’Just Another Diamond Day’ (which utilised Nick Drake‘s string section) in the 1970’s, a slice of pastoral folk that was ignored at the time but has since become a cult classic, with Piano Magic, Four Tet, Saint Etienne and Devendra Banhart all referencing her.
The Animal Collective clearly have a copy of that album, an appreciation that has led to them collaborating with Bunyan on this uniquely brilliant EP, ‘Prospect Hummer’, in which she sings on three of the four tracks. Bunyan’s intimate voice complement the childlike, eccentric world that the Animal Collective inhabit, especially as the last track on here, ’I Remember Learning How to Dive’, sounds like a children’s playground song. Like Joanna Newsom, their music sounds like it’s been recorded by children messing around on instruments that magically have turned into beautiful fairy tales, replete with surreal, sometimes nonsensical lyrics that take in spiders and flies.
The EP opens with ‘It’s You’, in which Bunyan's dreamy voice floats underneath an orchestra of heavily delayed acoustic guitars which sound variously like the sea washing against the beach and the strumming of a harp. ‘Prospect Hummer’ has a simple bass drum holding down a repetitive acoustic riff over which Bunyan and the Animal Collective multi-track their vocals to beautiful, angelic effect, before the song breaks down in the middle and they engage in some wordless vocal melodies. The wash of pastoral haze that seeps over the EP’s one instrumental, ’Baleen Sample’ - somewhat similar to ‘Visiting Friends’ from Sung Tongs - floats by in a beautiful orange sky, reminiscent of the languidness of Movietone (particularly ‘Summer’ from their Day & Night LP); but while Movietone and the Animal Collective share a mellifluous, solipsist aesthetic that barely acknowledges the outside world, the Animal Collective are far more stranger and weirder. Thankfully they never sound naff or contrived, and this EP is testament to their creativity and originality.
A brilliant, bewitching collaboration, 'Prospect Hummer' cements the Anomal Collective's reputation as one of the present music scene’s most unique and fascinating acts. Explore every nook and cranny of their wondrous, fairy-tale world.