Released in 2017 on Domino Records
“He says ‘And if its above me, I will kneel devoutly if it guides me. And if its below me, I’ll caress it tenderly. Are we thriving? We’re thriving”
From the very start of “Season High”, this album consistently evokes floating down a river through a tropical rainforest, with bird-like chirps from synth or violin, nature field-recordings, and slow waves of autoharp and acoustic guitar strumming to accompany Avey’s intimate, prayer-like singing. To help with the lush, hallucinogenic orchestrations, Avey enlisted the amazing violist/arranger Eyvind Kang, who’s not only worked extensively with Sunn O))), Bill Frisell, Secret Chiefs 3, and Sun City Girls, but actually played on “Bees” and other tracks on Animal Collective’s Feels (2005) that serve as spiritual predecessors to Eucalyptus. The wordless, ghostly vocals off in the distance are sung by Angel Deradoorian (whose cosmic albums The Exploding Flower Planet and Eternal Recurrence I highly recommend). “Melody Unfair”, follows the rhythm of deep breathing, with atmospheric sounds and guitar strumming fading in and out of silence with every inhale and exhale. As if the watery themes weren’t strong enough already, certain guitar or synth effects on this one strongly resemble dolphin calls. Side-A closer “Ms. Secret” picks up the pace a little, with a solid beat manifesting for the first time on the album (although still no drums in sight). If it weren’t for the countrified swells and slides of pedal steel from Susan Alcorn, this catchy track would fit snugly alongside the sunny psych-pop Animal Collective’s been producing this past decade. The lyrics on this one describe staying up “til the sunrise” talking with a close friend.
Because of its consistent sonic palette and reverb-heavy production, Eucalyptus may veer towards monotony during the first listen of its hour-long, fifteen-track duration, but further listens reveal that there is so much depth and variety to be explored within its aquatic-folk exterior. Side B alone consists of a sample-heavy sound-collage (“Lunch Out of Order pt. 1”), acoustic melancholia (“Lunch Out of Order pt. 2), bouncy pop (“Jackson 5”, another song that seems equally apt for an AnCo release), a droney underwater meditation (“Draw One for J”), and the eerie falsetto of the hazy “PJ”.
Avey Tare’s introspective, intimate lyrics play no minor part in the album’s evolving emotional narrative, a narrative that feels like the revelatory thought stream of someone on a profound acid trip. Personal reminiscing mixes seamlessly with surreal and nature-oriented imagery, occasionally leading to spiritual realizations like that “getting pulled down can enlighten you” (“Coral Lords”) and “life is all kinds of meeting you there” (“Lunch Out of Order Pt. 2”).
Overall Eucalyptus is a beautiful and enveloping excursion of ambient psych-folk that conjures water and nature through a hallucinogenic lens with its lush instrumentation, reverbed atmosphere, lyrics, and field recordings.
Recommended tracks: Season High, In Pieces, When You Left Me, Melody Unfair