David Portner, better known as Avey Tare of the essential psych-pop outfit Animal Collective, has always been a man who revels in musical eccentricities. On early Animal Collective works like Feels, Portner’s vocals bounce frantically around the listener’s head and perfectly counter the outlandish soundscapes in which they’re embedded. On Portner’s previous solo work Down There, the work was mired by dark aesthetics; the buoyant tendencies of his Animal Collective musings were nowhere to be found and had been traded out for introspective spurts of self-loathing. Since his 2010 release, Portner has released another album with Animal Collective and has seemingly found himself in a much better personal space. Combining these two aspects gives way to the idiosyncratic nature of his latest effort, Enter The Slasher House.
Touring in support of Centipede Hz, Portner was sidelined quite a bit by throat infections, bronchitis and various other illnesses. In his time off the road, he latched onto an acoustic guitar and began forming the songs that are found on Enter The Slasher House, giving these expansive tracks a strong foundation in simplistic melodies and structures. Portner took the skeletal tracks to his girlfriend Angel Deradoorian (formerly of Dirty Projectors) and drummer Jeremy Hyman (formerly of Ponytail, Dan Deacon) and fleshed them out into the melodramatic takes that make up this whimsical release.
Enter The Slasher House slowly churns up through the speakers as “A Sender” kicks off the album. Distorted synths melt into dissonant whirs and chimes then slowly fade away as a brisk, simplistic drumbeat propels Portner’s erratic vocal melody. These songs display a compelling dichotomy between the straightforward structures and zany musical side-notes that come into play with obscure samples buried deep in the mix and carnival-esque quirks. Portner has stated that he’s found a new affinity for ‘60s garage rock, and these brandish psych-pop gems are a perfect example of this. “Duplex Trip” feels like a comfortable mix between early Animal Collective and Centipede Hz while the lead single “Little Fang” displays some of the most forthright songwriting of Portner’s career.
But just because he’s been dabbling in straightforward songwriting doesn’t mean that Enter The Slasher House suffers from simplicity; on the contrary, there’s a lot of densely packed tracks here that joyously unfurl in a maddening manner. “Catchy (Was Contagious)” is a track that emanates positivity, powering through with syncopated rhythms and infectious melodies before brilliantly transitioning into one of the album’s weightier numbers, “That It Won’t Grow.” There’s an immense amount of dynamism on display within the trio’s debut; an astounding amount of exuberant highs counter the gloomy experimentations of the album’s darker moments.
Ultimately Enter The Slasher House excellently parallels the campy horror flicks and haunted houses that inspired the band’s name. There are a lot of free-flowing moments where you’re reveling in the zaniness of the whole experience, peppered with moments of awe thanks to Portner’s absurdist soundscapes. However, much like the pomp of these “slasher flicks,” there’s a lot that you might just find a bit too formulaic. If you’re a fan of Animal Collective and previous Avey Tare efforts, then you’ll surely embrace the unconventionalities on display, but moonlighting fans will probably enjoy the initial quirks and write the rest off for future listens.