The notion of artists venturing to the more indifferent climes of the natural world to delve into depths of the human psyche has been very well documented. Jack London developed scurvy and lost four front teeth in the Klondike Gold Rush before he transmuted The Call of the Wild to the page. Werner Herzog reported to Les Blank on nature’s “harmony of overwhelming and collective murder” from the Amazonian sidelines of his Fitzcarraldo saga with Klaus Kinski. So when Dave Portner (a.k.a. Avey Tare), principal songwriter and—by his bandmates’ classification—leader of Animal Collective, set out to record the Meeting of the Waters EP with the band, he and Brian Weitz (Geologist) braved Herzog’s perceived hostility in the Brazilian jungle in order to send the grandiosity of unbridled nature through their singular voltage-controlled filter. The resulting record recalled Animal Collective’s Campfire Songs (2003) with its deployment of field-recording ambience and electro-acoustic trappings, this time blown up full-bore to Super 35.
Although the second proper Avey Tare solo record was conceived in Portner’s adopted habitat of California and recorded there by close mate Josh Dibb (Animal Collective’s Deakin), the Campfire ethos has been indelibly imprinted upon Eucalyptus as well; its title even signifies the far-off marsupial psychedelic native to Australia. The other Portner work that this album most immediately evokes is Animal Collective’s criminally overlooked 2010 visual album, ODDSAC, in all its paint-gurgling glory. A visual accompaniment to Eucalyptus (edited by AC’s frequent sororal collaborator, Abby Portner) is also available on Avey Tare’s website. Indeed, “In Pieces” sounds like it could be gliding over the deep end of the same lake as depicted in ODDSAC’s ruminative “Screens.”
Also not to be forgotten is the first Avey Tare record, Down There (2010). While that album dwelt in the inky murk of Portner’s depression concerning the dissolution of his marriage to múm’s Kria Brekkan, Eucalyptus has at least managed to claw its way to the cryptogam layer, with tracks like the rejuvenated “Ms. Secret” exposed to a modicum of dawn. There is still dense canopy to explore, on the other hand, as closer “When You Left Me” clearly suggests the more sullen substance of Down There has yet to be fully transcended.
Most refreshingly, Eucalyptus further illuminates Portner’s ripening ability to absorb the polychromatism of his lush past work and create new, highly personal music that does not feel like a retread, allowing the name Avey Tare to shine on its own, even more boldly. Like his most notable creative companion, Panda Bear, Portner has proven that he can find himself in another part of the world.