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Avey Tare and Panda Bear with Geologist | Danse Manatee (Catsup Plate)
When they emerged late last year from way out of left field, New Yorkers AT and PB's arresting debut 'Spirit They've Gone...' was a startling glimpse into a bizarre otherworld where tinny, scratchy electronica lived as a near neighbour of a jittery, primitive folk rock. It was a claustrophobic album, impossible to pigeonhole, and, for those who heard it, hard to ignore. On their new record, 'Danse Manatee', helped by mysterious accomplice Geologist, who adds more live electronics, they succeed in making a still stranger, darker album, a soundtrack to a meandering journey to, well, nowhere in particular. At its most conventional it's as if the Incredible String Band had stumbled across the Aphex Twin's 'Ambient Works Volume 2', complex lattices of noise and streams of consciousness, but mostly it's more out there, structured but formless at the same time. This isn't to say it's a difficult listening experience ?? no more so than, say, Godspeed or any of the post-rock gang, or even early Mercury Rev. Ultimately, the reference points don't mean much but on the album's best piece, Throwing the Red Ball, they marry a clanking drone with Panda's disembodied voice (sounding like Will Oldham crossed with comedian Emo Philips). Perhaps what is most impressive is that you can tell that this is played with utter conviction. I await their next offering with interest.

Stephen Raywood
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002

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