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Animal Collective featuring Vashti Bunyan - Prospect Hummer

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Artist: Animal Collective featuring Vashti Bunyan

Album: Prospect Hummer

Label: FatCat

Review date: May. 5, 2005

The "between albums" EP is rarely a cause for celebration. However Prospect Hummer, the newest release from the Animal Collective, is downright exultant in its relative brevity (four songs clocking in at a mere 15 minutes). It marks the quartet's first batch of new material since last year's excellent and much lauded Sung Tongs, serving as a nice little aural snack while the masses wait for their newest full-length. More importantly, though, is the presence of reclusive folk icon Vashti Bunyan. She lends her beautiful voice to three of the tracks contained herein.

Aesthetically, the songs that make up Prospect Hummer don't sound too far removed from the moods and textures explored on the group's last album. Lest one be inclined to accuse the band of merely treading water, these songs, save for the instrumental "Baleen Sample," were written around the same time as the material for Sung Tongs.

The three vocal tracks seem drawn more from the Collective's softer, pensive side. These songs don't gallop with the same intensity as some of their more upbeat numbers, but rather lope along in a glorious haze of ebb and flow guitars, piano, electronics and spare percussion. "It's You" begins on a reflective note, exploring acoustic swells and cascading piano lines while Bunyan's voice lilts jut above a whisper. A sunny melody and a lazy bass drum kick start off the title track. The Collective and Bunyan mesh perfectly here - the former has always displayed a penchant for winsome, childlike innocence in their melodies, and the latter possesses both the sweet voice and lack of self-consciousness in her singing to make lyrics about house cats and their love of food bowls sound like a gorgeous sonnet (or whatever poem fits the meter). "I Remember Learning How to Drive" closes out the EP on a more simplistic note, the closest the Collective has ever come to traditional song-form.

Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day fell into obscurity after its release, only to be resurrected and championed in the past few years by a dedicated group of young musicians beguiled by the strength of her songs and the warmth of her voice. But more than just serving as the recipient of a reverential nod from a newer generation, Bunyan shows that she's still capable of imbuing the music she approaches with the same charm she possessed over three decades ago. As for the Animal Collective, it seems as though their upward trajectory is just getting started.

By Michael Crumsho

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