Over the past twelve years, Animal Collective founder Avey Tare (David Portner) has explored…
Over the past twelve years, Animal Collective founder Avey Tare (David Portner) has explored various states of his expansive musicality. An indefinable relapse with former girlfriend, Kría Brekkan, aside, these have generally strengthened Portner’s cult following. For his latest trick, the Baltimore-born experimentalist summoned Angel Deradoorian (formerly Dirty Projectors) and Jeremy Hyman (formerly Ponytail) to form Avery Tare’s Slasher Flicks. Their collective debut, Enter The Slasher House, inveigles its listeners into the playful darkness of slasher films and haunted carnivals, occasionally trading dummy violence for de facto bloody stabs to unsuspecting eardrums. Slasher House does revisit the psychedelic horror of Animal Collective’s visual album, ODDSAC, but is the most inimitable and catchy of Portner’s solo explorations to date.
Following a vengeful recovery from an inhibiting bout of strep throat, Portner described Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks as what results when “a group of three hippies on a road trip through the backwaters of 2013s rural music scene fall prey to a murderous cannibalistic band making.” In this cannibalism, Portner (vocals, guitar) Deradoorian (keyboard, vocals) and Hyman (percussion) have devoured much of what defined their previous respective musical trajectories, instead opting for some fresh creative blood in the form of one another.
While Portner’s description alludes to the oddball, fear-fetish roots of the project, it stops short in explaining the extent to which carnographism permeates the music he and his accomplices have created. Slasher House resurrects the bizarro-pop weirdness of Animal Collective’s Feels (2005), hands it a rusty cleaver and sweaty clown nose, then infects it with the grooviness of Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009). Thus envisaged, album parades about in a humorously sinister guise to Centipede Hz (2012) samples and accordion melodies. The result is a nauseating 40 minutes of carnivalesque scare tactics, dizzyingly captured by the album’s full visual stream, which is viewable below.
Somewhere in this thematic pastiche, Portner, Deradoorian and Hyman find their collective center-point. Deradoorian’s linear synths and Hyman’s sensible drumming develop throughout Slasher House and the trio sometimes appear unexpectedly welcoming, even catchy. As if the word ‘slasher’ could ever be accessible, this paradox features on “A Sender”, “Little Fang” and “Catchy (Contagious).” Any one of the three standouts could have been single-contenders, as uncharacteristically clear vocals converse with quirky instrumental buzzes to illuminate the experimental noise with incandescent playfulness. Because clarity and playfulness are pop sensibilities noticeably absent in both Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors’ work to date, these songs represent the most obvious departures from Portner and Deradoorian’s previous trajectories, and are as such the most novel elements of Slasher House.
However, these pleasantries are also Slasher House’s unassuming “Enter If You Dare” sign. Their musical trustworthiness and alluring songwriting assures listeners that stepping foot into the dark corners of Slasher House will not hurt, but of course, trouble needs a convincing lure. With its ominous and robotic introduction, “Blind Babe” references a Penderecki film score, and is the first indication that makeup-wearing circus murderers await. “That It Won’t Grow” leaps from the darkness, stabbing frantically in a unison of distorted chords and cymbal smacks, with animatronic backing vocals that mimic a haunted-house narration on dead batteries. “Outlaw” features somewhere in between the normality of “Catchy (Contagious)” and utter oddity of “That It Won’t Grow.” Deradoorian’s vocals are distant and subtly haunting, the only constant amongst a constantly changing tempo and Portner’s gut-wrenching screams, which have more in common with the demented aspects of Slasher House. The attractiveness of “Little Fang” and its meeker fellows aside, these brash, calamitous moments pervade Slasher House more often then not, and this contrast renders it bastardised aural remake of Jim Henson’s Sesame Street.
It would, however, be misguided to forget that shock, gore and horror (albeit under a disturbing guise of playfulness) are respectable niche tastes in their own right. Even while suffering from the confounded sugar-high following the closer, “Your Card”, one cannot help but acknowledge the appeal of experiencing Slasher House door-to-door, rather then selectively picking out its pleasantries. Irrespective of its amicability, each song on Slasher House is carried by its own immersive potential, by the fact that is an open door to a roller-coaster of aural giddiness where noise and texture ride shotgun and songwriting takes the backseat. Slasher House therefore spotlights Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks as Portner’s first genuine alternative to his existence with Animal Collective: a thought-out, entirely inimitable musical endeavour shielded by the power of taste and relativism.