Campfire Songs [reissue] - PAW TRACKS
FILTER Grade: 88%
By Kyle MacKinnel on February 3, 2010
Recorded in and underneath a screened porch in the woods of rural Maryland, Campfire Songs was titled in an effort by Animal Collective to capture the aesthetic of just that: songs played around a campfire. And what a strange blaze it was. Sonically, the album does a solid job of achieving this, with nature’s rumblings and the ambient crackle of insects and open air supplanting the manic electro-static passages previously present on Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished/Danse Manatee. Campfire turned out to be a more sparing approach to the sprawling song structures of David Portner and Noah Lennox.
The resulting album comes across, for the most part, as a peaceful, relaxing—if extremely weird—trip through a newfound musical slipstream. As on almost every Animal Collective record, there are lapses of pure paranoiac tension, particularly near the end of “Two Corvettes.” “Moo Rah Rah Rain” inverses the previously immense density of the AC aesthetic by embarking on a study in broken silence, which delivers rather effectively. “Doggy” is a pulsating strummer, and one of the more joyful songs of the band’s early canon. Perhaps the crown jewel is the 11-minute-plus closer, “De Soto De Son” (of which a version is also included on the newly released Animal Crack Box). It is an epic acoustic track with a backwoods slant and a cross-eyed banjo, which discovers its darkest point during what sounds like an actual thunderstorm. Then, when you least expect it, “De Soto De Son” re-emerges, as the birds resume their cawing, into a golden crescendo of Portner’s and Lennox’s trademark vocal harmonies. Animal Collective’s very own record label, Paw Tracks, has done justice to return an oft-overlooked early record of this pivotal band to its proper place, once again visible in the newfound sunlight.