Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks.
It’s been two years since Animal Collective’s last album, Centipede HZ, but singer and multi-instrumentalist Avey Tare has used his free time to ratchet up that record’s tense vibe. Tare, whose real name is David Portner, has just released Enter the Slasher House, the debut album from his project Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, formed with ex-Dirty Projectors’ Angel Deradoorian and ex-Ponytail’s Jeremy Hyman.
Enter the Slasher House sounds a bit like a stripped-down version of Centipede HZ, with Tare taking inspiration from B-movies and ’60s garage rock bands and mixing it with a ’70s horror flick aesthetic. It may sound campy, but the resulting music is legitimately creepy and unsettling.
“It’s not something I feel I ever would have explored with Animal Collective, being so referential with the music I like,” Portner says. “It was cool to be more experimental in that sense. There’s also an open-endedness to it. As much as I like that aesthetic, and I’m making it obvious with the photos we take with our press stuff, there’s this other side of music that’s like ‘you should leave it open for somebody’s imagination.’”
For a band called “Slasher Flicks,” the subtlety is surprising. They never break out into Misfits monster-movie punk tunes, or gothy Bauhaus-type songs. The horror influence is more abstract; Portner has paired the recognizably eerie sounds from horror movies like Halloween and the films of Dario Argento, with the youthful exuberance of early teen garage bands like The Seeds to create a driving, uncomfortable batch of songs that deal with his feelings about getting older.
“This record caught me at a weird point in my life. The songs are cathartic, in a way of getting stuff out that I felt like I needed to get out of my system—there’s a driving tension to it,” Portner says.
His change in direction over the last couple of years is less surprising in the context of his history with Animal Collective. Sung Tongs, the record that established them in 2004, was an acoustic record that radiated a natural, organic feeling, right down to the often wordless vocal melodies. They were hailed as leaders of the “freak-folk” scene.
But with each album since, Animal Collective have made significant shifts in their sonic palette. On 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion the group channeled the Beach Boys—coupling psychedelic melodies with deliberately synthetic production and texturing. It’s not so much that they’ve been able to succeed in the face of constantly altering their sound; they’ve succeeded because of it.
“A lot of what people respect about us is that we’ve done it in this other way—in the experimental nature of it,” Portner says. “For me it’s always just a continuously spinning wheel of music, and its little compartments that spin around. It’s like, where will the wheel land?”
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks play the Catalyst Atrium in Santa Cruz on Aug. 25 at 8:30pm. More info.