For fans only, and even then...Domino Records, 2017
Purchase: Domino Records / Amazon
5.0 / 10
Albums like Avey Tare‘s Eucalyptus dare to be reviewed. It’s a collection of elusive, amorphous sound collages — they mean very little to the audience, but you get the feeling that they mean a great deal to the artist. What’s the purpose then of assigning a numerical score? Or, to take it a step further, what’s the purpose of assigning any kind of critical evaluation? Or a recommendation of the album at all? For this kind of project, there are two factors to consider: 1) does this album resonate with the listener? And 2) if it doesn’t, is it interesting enough on its own merits to visit? Let’s look at both of these questions.
1) Does this album resonate with the listener? Not really, and I don’t believe Avey Tare intended it to. These loose, acoustic, psychedelic tracks lack a clear narrative or emotional center. They evoke vague feelings of loss, of heartbreak.
2) Is it interesting enough on its own merits? As the album is too vague to be emotionally resonant, it’s worth considering if the music is substantially personal. In other words, the value we get from it may be a zoo-like exercise. One where we look at the artist behind glass. We watch them toil away in their own thoughts and emotions. Eucalypus doesn’t pass muster on this mark either. It does not feel like a strikingly personal work, or at least, I do not feel like I have learned much about Avey Tare after this record.
Make no mistake, Eucalyptus is a listenable record. It’s no Pullhair Rubeye. But it’s certainly not a Animal Collective record, or even like a continuation of Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks. At its sprawling length (over an hour), there are a few highlight moments. Here, Portner’s voice rises out of the mist, forming a coherent idea or melody. Too often, though, Eucalyptus is a fog. It’s hazy. It’s meandering. Eucalyptus is an artist not exactly expressing his/her emotion, but it’s an artist searching for that emotion. There’s no clear destination, and the fog never quite clears, but for listeners wanting to join that search, Eucalyptus provides the opportunity.
“Selection of a Place”