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Avey Tare and Panda Bear | Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (Animal)
On their weird and wonderful debut album, New York-based duo Avey Tare and Panda Bear (not their real names) conjure up a highly individual and beguiling mixture of heady electronica and tortured avant-pop, falling somewhere between Boards of Canada and the Flaming Lips, albeit on a much more intimate scale than the latter band. Their great strength is in producing uncompromising, difficult, 'catchy' music; on the opening track, Spirit They've Vanished, plaintive, treated vocals cut through a dense shroud of electronic whooshing, setting the scene for much of the record. Throughout, jittery acoustic guitars clash with lovely ?? and not so lovely free jazz ?? piano pieces, fragile conversational voices and beats played with brushes on acoustic drums, but the listener is aware that the calm could be punctured at any moment by a violent noise outburst. The third, purely instrumental, track, is a tinnitus-inducing scree of feedback and electronic distortion. On April and the Phantom, the most deceptively conventional song in the 10 track, hour long set, the disquieting line "She ran out of nature" is repeated over and over against a gorgeous pop melody. Everyone Whistling recalls Pram covering Mercury Rev at the time of Yerself is Steam. Saving the best until last, on the piano-led 12-minute sprawling epic, Alvin Now, Tare and Bear throw in everything bar the kitchen sink as the off-kilter pop ripples ebb and flow, ideas spewing everywhere.

Steve Raywood
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001