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Savaging Spires – Savaging Spires

Critical Heights

Imagine that Animal Collective could be reformatted like a hard drive. Imagine some mad urfolk indie scientist, their senses dulled by slow cracks and too good weed, decided that the shimmering pop tarts of Merriweather Post Pavilion was just too much to bear, too damned hummable and so somehow found a way to just suck the Baltimore boys back to a time, circa Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, when they were just raw potential, just vaguely primal yelps and fratboy folk tics and snaky little synths and gentle guitar mangles and tiptapping milkbottle drums. Imagine that the same, slight, indie scientist somehow got his calculations just a tiny bit wrong and ended up taking the boys back but changed, so that Panda Bear has become a girl and Avey Tare has sort of gone, well, English and Geologist has turned into Enthnobotanist and only Deakin is as before except now his synth is all broken and reverse-engineered and maybe eaten by reindeer and shat out as (magick) mushroom bedding.

Well, I’m maybe more than a bit wrecked myself right now but this is how the Savaging Spires album sounds. I’m aware that the above scenario is unlikely, but I’m not ruling it out just yet. The press for these guys and girls wants us to hear unfolding Espers-like folk (and maybe one track sounds a little Wicker Man) and it’s clear that this will be positioned by Critical Heights alongside the forlorn psych genius of Wooden Wand but I’m hearing more of the Finnish psychfolk scene than anything New or Weird (actually, that’s a lie) or American. I can hear a less dense Kemialliset Ystävät, a less feline Islaja, a less propulsive Avarus.

But mostly I hear Animal Collective as they might have been. On some songs (not all of these songs are songs) they take the forking path that meant Panda Bear leapt right over the Beach Boys and headed straight for Dennis Wilson instead. There’s a roughness and a fragility about some of these vocals, especially the male ones and the female voice(s) sometimes seem like they’re having to tiptoe around, so as not to send the male into shivering despair. If this seems a bit heavy then it’s not at all; it’s actually light as hell, with maybe a slight touch of whimsy, a slight shading of twee (the kind of twee that I’ve always associated with places like Winchester, which appears on the CD inner sleeve as if it’s a psychogeographical map reference). I’ve played this only once so far, it only came today, but I think it’s going to get played a lot. It might even get annoying eventually, maybe unbearable, maybe it’ll eventually seem just too fractured and whimsical ( am I saying too English? Perhaps, though I’m not sure it’s literally English; I don’t care either). It might be one of those albums that eventually does yer head in, even if you loved it once but it has a real will, like a leper hopping alongside with a bowl. It wants love and it’ll get some.


Savaging Spires – When The Devil Says He’s Dead from Critical Heights on Vimeo.

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