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Campfire Songs | self-titled (Catsup Plate Records)
As ZZ Top once remarked, "Hi-fi, lo-fi, no-fi's just fine with me." And believe me this is no-fi. It's been a while since we heard from Avey Tare and Panda Bear's Animal Collective and their strange and beguiling Flaming Lips meets Aphex Twin experiments. Now, a couple of years after 'Danse Manatee', they've ditched the electronic manipulations and the abrasive white noise scree, picked up some acoustic guitars and, as the title suggests, assembled around the campfire to perform a quintet of what can be described loosely as songs, more accurately as incantations, sprawling, repetitive but not without charm. These are field recordings, and with the exception of the relatively concise and conventional Doggy, so wispy they hardly exist. It's a hard one to pin down. These vague, vaguely folky, songs don't go anywhere or develop in any obvious sense: guitars are plucked and strummed, the vocals are mournful, crickets chirp, that's all, nothing to latch onto. Forty-odd minutes later you stroll back from the fire, from your retreat from technology, none the wiser. And yet, somehow, it kind of works. Mostly because, as with their previous recordings, it's all done with utter conviction.

Stephen Raywood
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003