First released in 2003, this delight of an album was created by three quarters of musicOMH Album Of 2009 winners Animal Collective (the trio of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Deakin), who for these purposes billed themselves – and the resultant release – as Campfire Songs.
Recorded on a screened-in porch in one take, although the collection of songs had been written over the course of the previous five or so years, it followed the band’s 2001 Danse Manatee and provided a significant contrast to that album’s assault-by-electronic-overload. This release is the first time that the album has been made available digitally.
Rather than an actual discernable “start”, the sounds and music of opening track Queen In My Pictures instead emerge as if from the ether, beautifully evoking the gradual building and crackling of that campfire. Non-tangible and otherworldly, this long (just short of 10 minutes) and subtle piece is a drowsily, pervasively effective scene-setter for what is to follow.
So subtly that the listener doesn’t notice the join, it then morphs into Doggy, perhaps the most distinct track of the five on the album. Woozy vocals flicker (again channelling that campfire atmosphere) and a strange combination of queasiness with jaunty acoustic tunesmithery prevails.
Throughout, there is a near-constant hum of background acoustics, and intermittent noises-off from the surrounding nature which actually complement the music being made, and add a slightly unreal, enchanted edge. Rain is heard to fall (Two Corvettes), or birds tweet as the dusk falls, whilst Moo Rah Rah Rain is ornamented with the gentle chirping of crickets. Meaning and imagery are created by the sounds – the aforementioned noises, the acoustic instrumentation and the vocal chants and incantations – much more than by any lyrics, the majority of which are cryptic, mysterious and mostly unintelligible.
There is a sense, indeed, in which a coherent or comprehensible narrative would break the spell, and inject some mundanity into the oblique aura of magic that is being conjured. This release was unusual for the band in that it was accompanied with the lyrics in the liner notes, however, so the words that are sung, muttered, chanted and whispered are available if needed, on this most beguiling, dream-like and ultimately just-out-of-reach release.