Album Review: Avey Tare – Cows on Hourglass Pond

By Kiah Easton, Staff Writer
[Domino; 2019]
Rating: 7/10

Key tracks: “What’s The Goodside?”, “Eyes On Eyes”, “HORS_”

David Portner of Avey Tare, most popularly known for co-founding Animal Collective, released a new, full-length project entitled Cows on Hourglass Pond. Clearly a driving force within Animal Collective, this project reminisces his softer, narrative tracks within the Collective’s discography. With Cows on Hourglass Pond, Avey Tare sculpts his own niche of psychedelic folk-pop that, although similar, stands alone from Animal Collective’s well-defined sound.

Read more: Album Review: Animal Collective – Painting With

“What’s The Goodside?” eases the listener into the organic, dirty, bubbly world that Avey Tare communicates. Like many of the songs on this project, a perceptually three-dimensional environment is created on the track, as looping conversations drenched in reverb and cut by soft chords seem to be deep in thought themselves. Portner’s voice whisps through the track undefined and is often hidden by overlapping sounds, creating a blurred, ethereal experience. Wrapping up the song is his voice again: “What is, is, is, is? /  I can’t even find it on the map” reinforcing the feeling his music conveys. Undefinable, fluctuating and emotional.

“Eyes On Eyes” injects the project with a burst of youthful energy, contrasting the dreamy psychedelic haze surrounding it. Displaying the most pop-driven melodies on the album and a steady four on the floor drum pattern, the piece is a dance around a fire with all your closest friends. Like sand between your toes, “Eyes On Eyes”, as well as the project in its entirety, has an organic, gritty feel. The combination of classical instrumentation and electronic modulation creates the hybrid sound that somehow remains timeless.

Like many of Portner’s sonic choices, “HORS_” begins with an undefinable mash of chopped and reversed vocals. The song is quickly given direction as an ethereal flute drapes itself across the aural spectrum with a whimsical defining melody. Supporting the flute comes a deep, breathy bass and Avey Tare’s street busker-esque guitar strums. With lyrics that are strangely similar to that of a farmer recounting the properties of horses, Avey Tare’s aesthetic is reinforced as a strange combination of building psychedelic atmospheres and folk ballads for the most earthly of humans.

Cows On Hourglass Pond is a cohesive collection of songs that lull any listener into a mindful dream of digitally rendered livestock on green pastures. A pleasant listen to any extent, fading into the background, the songs have a calming effect that is hard to dislike. Although Avey Tare’s sound is distinct from Animal Collective, it has the tendency to leave the listener with the sense that something just isn’t complete. Animal Collective’s sound was at the forefront of experimental pop music, and Avey Tare’s work will always fall within its shadow. More than anything else, this project builds longing for more from the group as a whole, rather than only a part.

Listen here:

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