Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Animal Collective New Age interview

The peg for the New Age story stems from a Zamfir sample that Animal Collective used for their Fall Be Kind EP from 2009. Yet their love and appreciation for such New Age fare extends beyond that. The Geologist hepped me to Claire Hammill's ephemeral all-vocal album Voices a few years back and even amid their pop noise scramble, there remains a focus on tone and sustained sound that hints at much deeper listening practices. It was crucial to have their input for the piece and both Brian and Dave Portner obliged:

Brian "The Geologist" Weitz

I came to new age music through drone and ambient records that would be considered more experimental or minimalist than new age. I did a radio show on WKCR in New York that went from 1-5 AM and some nights I would just choose 4 long pieces to play. Things like Alvin Lucier and Charlemagne Palestine were big for me. This was in college and during those years I spent a semester living in the desert in Arizona which had a big effect on my music listening habits.

 My pace of life slowed down a lot from when I lived in New York and it was easier to notice the subtle changes in the natural day, which required a certain amount of patience and willingness to concentrate on small details that unfold over longer periods of time. I wanted the same kind of feeling from records I was listening to. I'm not sure I'd describe the effect this has as relaxing. I suppose it is, but it's more the hypnotic quality of it that I find appealing.

Eventually, I came to hear some private press new age records that weren't all that different from something like Terry Riley and the boundaries started to disappear for me. I think the reason there is a stigma attached to a lot of new age music is because of the personalities associated with it. I don't have a problem with it, but I think there is sort of a naive optimism to the aesthetic. It's the same thing that turns a lot of people away from hippie psych records. I like those too though.

I think the recent popularity is similar to the popularity of a lot of hippie psych folk stuff from a few years ago, but I'm not sure I know why it's happening. Maybe it's a distance thing. Those personalty types typically associated with those music styles aren't as prevalent and people who have a more punk attitude don't have to interact with them and feel the need to push back. In fact these days the people making experimental music that sounds a lot like new age stuff have a more underground punk aesthetic, which maybe makes it easier to swallow.

Dave "Avey Tare" Portner

Where did that Zamfir sample come from?

I came across it because I was getting more into Eastern European music, Bulgarian, Hungarian, etc. that melody on the record stuck out. The flute stuff is really crazy. It was tough to work into a song.
It didn’t dawn on me that people would have the reaction that it was a New Age flute thing. It seemed normal and something that would work.

I know Zamfir’s music because of those infomercials in the 80s.

I didn’t even associate it with that; I just stumbled upon that record.

I think Gang Gang Dance goes for that kind of stuff as well, the cheesier the tone the better.

There’s a side of me that really loves this ambient space-out music. A few of us trade these ambient records every now and then. Like Iasos, just music like that. That record I suggested to you, Syrinx, I think those guys even played with Zamfir. To me, the world treads the line between…you look in the New Age section, the experimental section, similar records fall into either one.

They’re both into suspension and drones.

My love of New Age music comes from me liking drone and minimalist music, things with microtones. But there’s also this side of me that comes from my mom, who listened to a lot of New Age music when I was growing up. We used to go to Miami a lot, and there was this New Age store that had all these tapes. I remember looking at the covers with dolphins on them. I remember my mom bought Deep Breakfast by Ray Lynch. I love that record. That’s the side that’s super cheesy to me, adult contemporary. Yoga videos my mom used to watch with people sitting in front of waterfalls doing yoga poses. I associate it a lot with certain childhood things.

I guess people are getting into it. A lot of it is ‘out there,' if you get into that kind of thing. Ambient music has gotten more popular. People are into the peacefulness and it’s good music for being calm. I listen to that kind of stuff around the house and on tour. I have things on my iPod. Being on tour and listening and playing loud music, I want to listen to something that’s going to calm me down.