s the story goes—there’s already a story: milieu, idea, character, event—Avey Tare of Animal Collective and his new wife, Kristin Anna Valtysdóttir (formerly of Múm and studio pianist on the last AC record), got trapped in New York by a blizzard after watching David Lynch’s Inland Empire and, presumably moved, decided to mix Pullhair Rubeye down entirely backwards. “If you’re that bummed you can blame the weather and David Lynch,” Avey said on the AC message board.
OK! Brows were furrowed, complaints logged, and shortly after, distraught pirates began furiously reversing the reversed files and sharing them online, creating the work of art that, I dunno, they felt they deserved. I haven’t. I mean, I’ve done some crazy stuff in blizzards too, and thought that Inland Empire was the most intensely affecting movie I’d ever seen. I couldn’t walk straight afterward.
Pullhair Rubeye isn’t awful, but it could’ve been great. Kristin’s piano work on Animal Collective’s Feels made sparkles where there used to be jagged edges, and Avey Tare’s few solo tracks have shown a different, promising variation on what he does in AC. On tour they’d been showing off tremulous acid-folk, but—maybe it was their marriage—the songs had an inviting sense of domesticity: songs to sing at the sink. “I’m Your Eagle Kisser,” which they recorded for a compilation of tracks from the Brooklyn studio Rare Book Room, is probably my favorite song yet this year.
Whichever way you play it (I’d guess), Pullhair is a close, quiet affair, softened by the quality of the reel-to-reel tape recorder while Kria and Avey twitch playfully under some covers. Erotic, even, listening to the hisses and lovers’ whispers unfurl from muffled keyboard arpeggios. Some of the more delicate songs—especially the terrifying dawn of album-closing “Was Onaip”—are sublime. But when a hard-strummed guitar is reversed, it makes a percussive slurp-slurp-slurp sound that turns tracks like “Palneka” into endurance tests. Maybe you love this sound and maybe you love hot coals on your genitals; either way, I only point it out to caution.
Am I angry about Pullhair Rubeye? No. That’d be dumb. Animal Collective fans have been spoiled: Panda Bear’s Person Pitch is one of the best indie releases of the 2007, and the band will probably release something before the year’s out, which—god, take a slow lap—will make eight albums and several EPs (not counting Panda Bear’s solo stuff) since 2000.
There was that album where John Lennon and Yoko Ono just got naked and talked, sometimes, to a microphone in the other room. Avey and Kria aren’t John and Yoko. But there’s actually something deeply sweet about Pullhair Rubeye, even if it’s not really a good listen, even if fans are going to figure out new curse words just to curse it further into the g-d dirt, even if other fans are going to blindly prop up the artist’s word as Allah’s, even if Avey and Kria died tomorrow—that night, whenever they decided to just say “fuck it, this is how we like it” has to stand for something, even if it was just mindless indulgence. Call it their honeymoon—we don’t necessarily need to see it to trust it made them happy.