Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: Stag Hare - Spirit Canoes (Hands in the Dark / Inner Islands, 2011)

Someone once compared one of Stag Hare’s earlier albums to the work of the critics dearies Animal Collective. While in this comparison, the person probably had on mind their more electronic-oriented albums (i.e. Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavillion), the work of Stag Hare is somewhat similar to one track on Sung Tongs – namely, “Visiting Friends”. The track’s hypnotic quality stems from the almost stupefying repetition of simple guitar phrases with mangled, wordless vocals thrown into the mix, constituting one of the most psychedelic tracks in AnCo’s career. The music of Stag Hare expands those ideas and gives them further tribal and, at the same time, electronic twist, relying its power of hypnotizing of endless looping of a simple drum or melody phrase, an endless psych-folk sustain, like a more beat-oriented and monotonous permutation of Vibracathedral Orchestra.
            The newest album from the ambitious youngster, released simultaneously on CD by French label Hands in the Dark and on 12” vinyl by American label Inner Islands, presents the already defined sound of Stag Hare in four seemingly endless, trippy movements. Each one over 10 minutes long, the tracks set slow, enveloping vistas around relaxed and slowed-down vaguely tribal beats, which at times sound like deconstructed and tamed hip-hop beats (“Asha Moon Canoes”). The dense and carefully constructed textures are woven around the beats like a treehouse made of leaves is constructed around the main frame. The relaxing, soothing sounds never stray from the main path set by the never changing beat and there are no sudden changes in pitch, rhythm or general nature of the songs – Stag Hare intends his music to be not as much a focused listening as the background music, suitable for chilling on the outside or in the woods – in the great ambient fashion. In a way, Stag Hare can be seen as a spiritual ancestor not as much of psych folkers or New Age musicians as the German ambient techno minimalist Wolfgang Voigt, a.k.a. Gas, whose nebulous, repetitious tracks also evoked the feelings of a deep virgin forest while keeping the listener in a state of sustained auditory bliss.     
           Stag Hare channels both Gas and that one Animal Collective track. But while Animal Collective decided to go for the shorter, more varied psych pop format, Stag Hare decided to keep with the spirits of Gas and release a string of sustained, auditory bliss straight from the forestfloor. Stag Hare is the new Gas – new Gas for the new hippies.

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