Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks
The power to mislead is a gusty, adventuresome force, and Slasher Flicks by name alone is not what it appears to be. Scrambled horror film soundtracks? Not even remotely. A bunch of East Coasters making their quintessential LA album? No, more like escape from LA, say leather masked guitar-wielding Avey Tare (of Animal Collective), knife-wielding keyboard player Angel Deradoorian (of Dirty Projectors, Deradoorian), and the cannibal chief drummer and decaying grandfather Jeremy Hyman (of Ponytail, Dan Deacon). If LA is an environment to get lost in, as they claim, this group sewing roots in SoCal have become lost in the best way: relocating and reinventing sounds they’re already skilled in making, sounds that as Avey Tare says, are not only regionally unrestricted but that “come from a place that’s not human.” In that, the Slasher Flicks’ music is rather monstrous, like the band’s love of horror comic books, and is audibly underpinned by Avey Tare’s constant dedication to garage music distorted by miscreant artifice: Arthur Lee’s LOVE, Misfits, and Cramps. Slasher Flicks’ inaugural release undulates like a mirage: beyond the sonic space it creates, the band hopes it expresses something more synaesthetic, what they call “pure emotional space.”
Slasher Flicks is uniquely its own “jazz power trio,” but does find lineage in Avey Tare’s history of collaborations outside of Animal Collective (i.e. Terrestrial Tones with Black Dice’s Eric Copeland). Having composed the bones of these eleven songs on acoustic guitar, Avey Tare invited Deradoorian, to create melodic lines to flesh them out. Then, enter Hyman, whose backgrounds in painting and music proved his rare combo of flexibility and acuity, “free but structured”. For Hyman, Slasher Flicks has been a fun challenge, in that it’s the first time he’s played without multiple drummers. Which makes sense while listening, because at times it sounds like he has ten arms drumming simultaneously. Pounding, danceable beats alternate with breezier percussion even if it’s “hard to play soft” as Hyman says. The softer beats create dynamic, especially in the sweet pop jam “Little Fang,” which the band describes as “clean guitars, soft everything and special smoke called ‘PYT’ blown into the tape machine shows off spirits conjured from sweeter worlds.” The spirit of Michael Jackson’s “PYT” was conjured for “Little Fang,” yet many of the other tracks also embody the true spirit of this particular collective: Avey, Deradoorian, and Hyman’s independent signature talents, collaged with openly acknowledged inspiration and influence, informs and sustains Slasher Flicks. One immediately recognizes Avey Tare’s singular vocal styles and guitar riffs, Deradoorian’s mellifluous singing and Eno-style modular synth moments, and Hyman’s enervated drumming, but Slasher Flicks is densely layered and textured with completely new tones, moods, and notes.
And it is oddly jazzy—not literally but gesturally, procedurally—funk-jazz, rather, with expanded moments built in and plenty of prog improvisation harkening back to touchstones Weather Report, Soft Machine, Herbie Hancock (Head Hunters), even early Hall and Oates (War Babies). In keeping with the jazz vibe, the band recorded live and used only minimal overdubs; the live sound is key to Slasher Flicks’ spooky dynamism. So while there are nightmarish moments peppering the lyrics and melodies, there’s a sense of renewal, transformation through constant flux. As the band says, “happiness is just around the bend.”
The Orange Peel
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