It's impossible to describe Avey Tare's solo debut, Down There, without making explicit reference to Animal Collective, both for his pivotal membership in that group and the inextricable similarities in sound. Down There is not an Animal Collective album, a distinction made clear via subtle differences in tone and delivery, and though the resemblance is clear, it makes enough of an effort to tweak the group's signature affectations to feel vital on its own.
The most basic difference is tonal, with a focus on darkness and pain that eventually leaks into the rhythm and pacing of the songs. Animal Collective tracks are generally high-spirited, evoking a folksy warmth that leans toward communal joy even when they come off as a bit sinister. From its green and black cover motif to its crawling, ominous songs, Down There generally seems headed in an entirely different direction, employing the same methods toward drearier ends. The album opens, and frequently returns to, slowed down conversation samples, which aid in the overall air of songs being dragged down rather than lifted up. Effects that might whizz by ecstatically on an Animal Collective album get a dimmer treatment here, slowly extended and molded, like the nondescript globs of sound that squelch by on opener "Laughing Hieroglyphic."
Down There seems to have ostensibly taken on the mantle of a breakup album, supposedly recorded in the wake of Tare's separation from wife Kría Brekkan, former vocalist for Múm. Whether it's true or not, the label fits—what with the general atmosphere of gloom and the news that he has no plans to tour. This could easily turn into a sad, stagnant mess, but rather than wallow, Tare uses the downbeat bearing of the material to explore different methods, representing a turn away from the shimmery, propulsive course his band has been exploring since 2005's Feels. "Glass Bottom Boat" could be one of those songs drastically slowed down, with a yawning, stretched-out blankness that gives way to the eerie slog of "Ghost of Books." Water and darkness motifs abound, and a man's distorted imprecation on "Glass Bottom Boat" that "I can get you there, just step into my boat here" seems to audibly suggest a passage into hell, one that leads on to the shadowy, echoing "Cemeteries," where bird calls are twisted into an ghostly recurring theme.
Down There may not be inherently more complex than the standard Animal Collective album, but its deliberate languidness, its songs measured and exposed as opposed to the usual frenzy, lends itself more fully to an exploration of how carefully the songs are shaped.