Over the past decade, the members of tenured experimental rock outfit Animal Collective have fallen into a routine of alternating between releasing albums as a group and under their own solo monikers. Following AnCo’s 2018 album Tangerine Reef, Panda Bear put out Buoys this past February and, a little over a month later, Avey Tare dropped Cows on Hourglass Pond.
The latter’s album stands out since, at his supporting live dates, other members of AnCo have formed his backing band: Deakin switches off between synths and guitars; and Jeremy Hyman, who has been the group’s live drummer since 2016, sits behind the kit. AnCo’s lineup has always been permeable, with members leaving and returning as they please (for example, Panda Bear doesn’t appear on Tangerine Reef), so it’s refreshing to see this permeability carry over into Tare’s solo work. Unfortunately, this element doesn’t make up for Hourglass Pond’s lackluster material, which comprised the majority of Tare’s setlist this past Tuesday at The Echo.
The LA-based electronica duo Paradot, who opened the show, sounded like they pillaged all of their material from The Knife’s Silent Shout, overwhelmed themselves, and indecisively spliced their loot—minus vocals—into capricious, unfulfilling dance tracks. They’d start with a vaguely compelling dark-ambient intro, cut into an industrial beat frenzy for a few bars, then halt it completely and segue into a different vaguely compelling dark-ambient intro, repeating the cycle for around a half-hour altogether.
Maybe the disjointed effect of Paradot’s set was deliberate, and they were trying to communicate what it might sound like if streaming algorithms, which divide and compartmentalize songs according to one’s listening habits, started glitching out. I don’t really think this was the case, though. Their music sounded as unsure as they were about making eye-contact with the audience. So I decided not to look at them either, and instead I turned my gaze to the overhead bar menu hanging atop the left wall.
Between listings for beer and hot dogs, in a column unto itself, was written “Avey Tare.” Was it a cocktail the venue conceived especially for tonight? Nope, since there wasn’t a price next to it (as opposed to the “Metallica Pilsner” going for $8 a can). The only reason it seemed to be up there was to inform Avey Tare fans who the headliner was that evening. Thank you for the reminder, bar at The Echo.
As promised by the printed out schedules taped to various pillars around the room, Tare took the stage at around 10:15. Paradot’s tracks went in so many directions simultaneously, they ultimately ended up nowhere, whereas the headliner’s tracks were directionless from the start. He’d strum away on a single flimsy bar-chord for a few minutes, while Deakin tip-tapped the keys of his analog synth. Hyman was the redeeming factor, as he’d periodically come in with a propulsive motorik or soca beat that actually gave the other two’s ambient fumbling some appeal, and caused raggedy guys in the audience to vigorously nod their heads to the rhythm.
The trio lacked stage presence, aside from when Deakin would sometimes throw an apprehensive glance Avey’s way—or maybe he was looking at “Avey Tare” written on the bar menu, and the expression on his face meant that he was just as confused about the text’s presence as I was. What could’ve made up for some of the set’s negative aspects was an AnCo cover or two (perhaps some deep-cuts from Sung Tongs or Feels). This option would’ve made sense considering the band’s membership, but it seemed beyond their purview.
The show reminded me of the quasi-experimental, aimless jam sessions I sometimes have with my friends in their basements. One of us will be on guitar or bass, the other on drums, and we’ll prolong some groove together for twenty minutes, growing bored, sweaty, and tired of tending to our instruments, but we’ll keep playing for a few more minutes since there really isn’t much else to do. Such jams are unproductive and indulgent; it’s why I felt embarrassed watching Avey Tare. His music has become the kind that’s better off performed alone in his basement, or buried on his hard drive. Tare sings on the Animal Collective classic “Daffy Duck” that he could use some good advice, so I offer this: Don’t feel inclined to put out solo material just because your main band is taking a break—take one yourself.
Eli Zeger is a writer and musician originally from Montclair, NJ. He's contributed to a variety of publications, and his website is: elizeger.cargo.site.