By all accounts Animal Collective's Avey Tare had a rough time of it while he was working on his 2010 solo debut, Down There (Paw Tracks): his grandmother died, his sister was diagnosed with cancer, and his marriage fell apart. The music's surfaces are suitably dark and swampy, with hissy, gurgling, crawling electronic beats—there's even an alligator head on the cover—and Tare (aka Dave Portner) sings about a world of uncertainties in a voice drenched with reverb. In "Ghost of Books" he finds solace in a phantom lover, and in the fragile "Cemeteries" he relies on the power of positive thinking to beat back his anxiety: "Sometimes I panic, sometimes I do / Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I can't even breathe." Initially the album struck me as an amorphous mess—in Animal Collective, Portner has always been the most experimental member—and even after several listens some pieces still sound like fragments of tunes buried in digital glossolalia. But that extra attention also allowed some beautiful, wounded songs to emerge from the sonic shadows: the majestic "Laughing Hieroglyphic" has an irresistible surging bridge, and the chorus of the mesmerizing "Heather in the Hospital" is almost as seductive.
As a solo artist, Eric Copeland of Black Dice creates jarring, unkempt collages, mostly by chopping up and recycling music from the 80s. His latest album, Waco Taco Combo (Escho), shares the stream-of-consciousness drift of Black Dice—it feels improvised, even when it clearly isn't—but what's different here is that twisted little pop songs emerge from the slapped-together detritus, draped across a shape-shifting armature of grimy, hijacked beats. Copeland's techniques are hardly crude—he manipulates the speed, clarity, direction, and even the fidelity of his swiped materials—but Waco Taco Combo sounds like the product of a sampling culture that evolved in a junkyard. The album has a bristling, undisciplined energy, which has the occasional negative side effect: it definitely flirts with self-indulgence, and some collisions feel more random than musical. That's another thing Copeland's solo work has in common with Black Dice: to really appreciate it, you've got to approach it with some generosity of spirit. —Peter Margasak Avey Tare headlines; Copeland opens.