ounting Campfire Songs, Hollinndagain is the seventh full-length disc the members in Animal Collective have released since 2000. Being prolific is only a virtue if you don’t suck. And even if you think Animal Collective does—I think they’re the best band of the decade and haven’t peaked yet—you’d still be hard-pressed to deny that they’re one of the few indie groups defying stasis at approximately an album a year.
Hollinndagain is a newly reissued set of live and radio recordings from 2001, falling between the noisy-as-fuck folk of Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished and Danse Manatee, and the loose, terrifying Here Comes the Indian. One of the most rewarding things about Animal Collective fandom is that the band always has twelve-too-many ideas. Seeing them work out unrecorded material in a live setting can be like watching Voltron form, groan, and build a mate from wet clay; they’re the cheerier model of Excepter’s burlesque séance or a sexier, whiter Boredoms.
Because “growth” is such an all-pervasive theme in the band’s music and history, diving back into Hollinndagain now (as opposed to listening to it in 2002), is disorienting. We’ve heard these ideas articulated better elsewhere—the drum-n-shout of “Forest Gospel”’s opening is all over the first ten minutes of Here Comes the Indian; the lightning-in-a-bottle noise and gorgeous keyboard loop of “I See You Pan” is as tremulous as any of the lullabies on Spirit They’ve Gone. There’s energy in the performances, but it sometimes sounds like the band is trying to throw a saddle on a horse in mid-gallop rather than ride it out of the gates. The sub-par sound quality of the recordings doesn’t help—it softens the edges of the high-frequency synth noises and neutralizes the claustrophobic sense of space they achieved on Here Comes the Indian, effectively a live-in-the-studio album.
The most interesting thing here is the midsection of “Forest Gospel,” where Avey Tare lapses into stoner mumblings halfway between rapping and the whitey eroticism of Gordon Gano while a synth bass hints at dancehall. The band’s flirtations with riddim have always been half-formed and wholly intriguing; the original live versions of Feels’s “Grass” had a tacked-on ending with more skank and deejay patter than the recorded version let in, the live-only “People” mixed a Morricone riff with the insistent, stepping quality of mid-70s reggae, and the shuffle of “Banshee Beat” was practically a quickened calypso.
It’s hard for me to imagine a casual fan of the band finding a lot to like about Hollinndagain; even as a hardcore fan, I’ve always only been minimally interested in actually listening to this material (which I first heard a few months after Here Comes the Indian was released). People interested would be better off saving their money and sifting through recent shows on archive.org and elsewhere. There’s something to be said for looking at your childhood sketches, but nobody wants to remember their awkward phase.