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September 14, 2007 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-09-14

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, September 14, 2007- 5A



They may look benign. But just wait till you see them with masks.

Daily Music Editor
Animal Collective's latest, Straw-
berry Jam, is somewhat of a behemoth.
Not that it carries on unnecessarily or
that it's held down by too much going
on at once, but it's a
massive piece of work
five years in the mak-
ing. Kind of.
Every time the New Animal
York troupe releases a Collective
new album it's criti-
cally hailed as the Strawberry
group's best (see the Jam
universally slobbering
reviews of Sung Tongs Domino
and Feels). And to an
extent, the praise is
warranted. Animal Collective always
seems to find new ways of reshaping
its jammy, uncontrolled sound wheth-
er it be more structure, more noise or
more drugs. But with each new album,
the band abandons the steps it's taken
on the previous record, opting to use

only snippets of earlier work instead
of grounding the album in previous
Strawberry Jam is different in just
that regard: The album plays as the
summation of everything Animal Col-
lective has done before it. A far cry
from multi-instrumentalist/vocalist
Panda Bear's plodding, cuddly moniker,
Animal Collective's movements on this
disc are fluid and slithering, rapid and
violent. With the raw power of its early
work and semi-controlled songwriting
of its later material, Strawberry Jam
finds a way to weave in and out of its
own self-aware existence, striking at
just the right moment with bombastic
crescendos before settlingbacking into
folky croons and light-hearted compo-
sitions. It simultaneously breaks the
mold of everything they've done before
while feeling remarkably familiar.
But what can be expected of a group
that's abandoned tradition and reason
in its live shows, taking the stage with-
out instruments in lieu of sequencers
and mics alone? On Strawberry Jam,

Animal Collective manages to shake
even typical notions of songwrit-
ing. The debut single "Fireworks" is
a masterpiece of percussive guitars,
hazy samples and joyous melodies. On
previous releases, the track would've
devolved into an ecstatic, druggy folk
freestyle, but here it holds its structure
and proves there's more to Animal Col-
lective songwritingthan a dimebag and
strobe lights. Album opener "Peace-
bone" acts similarly as it pounds along
an electronic daze and tribal beat. The
track's bouncing melody gives it a sing-
a-long ambiance - something unthink-
able on previous Animal Collective
releases - until the group breaks into a
full-on screamfest.
But to say that Animal Collective
have gone all standard-songwriting
on Strawberry Jam would be a gross
misinterpretation. "#1" sounds like
a Teletubby's nightmare as the bub-
bly, raining keyboards are attacked
by random shrieks and incomprehen-
sible moans. In the same vein, "Cuckoo
Cuckoo" sounds like the guys wrote a

delicate piano ballad but brought in
hyperactive toddlers to pound along on
the drums.
The real issue with Strawberry Jam
is that for all of its astounding tracks,
it still feels restrained. Animal Collec-
tive sounds ready pounce but wholly
unable to when the opportunity arises.
Right when the album should really go
for the jugular, it settles into a kind of
monotonous complacency.' The group
has always banked heavily on loops and
repetition and almost always succeeded
with them, but on this latest release, they
build so much into their songs that when
they fall into these lackluster sequences
the pause in the album's movement is
disappointing rather than intriguing.
Still, Strawberry Jam is the product
of beautiful evolution. Perfectly blend-
ing everything they've done previ-
ously, Animal Collective artfully craft
their most complete album to date. And
though it seems that they have nowhere
to go from here, that shouldn't be of
concern. They're on top of their game
and will no doubt find something new.

Feist: you can
trust the hype
Daily Arts Writer
The last time Leslie Feist came to Ann
Arbor, her crooningcaptivated a packed Blind
Pig. This Saturday night she'll break hearts at
a considerably larger venue: The Michigan
Theater. This time tickets may
be even harder to come by.
The talented and gorgeous Feist
Canadian chanteuse returns
in support of The Reminder, Saturday
a breakthrough commercial at 8p.m.
success for a woman that used $25/$30
to be best known as "one of (Sold out)
the girls from Broken Social
Scene." With the support AttMichigan
of everyone from your localT er
record store clerk to the big-
wigs at Starbucks and the ad
wizards over at Apple, she's arguably eclipsed
her former band in terms of popularity in the
indie-rock sphere - she certainly has in terms
of mass commercial appeal.
None of. the newfound attention heaped
upon her has seemed to affect the qualities her
fans became enamored with in the first place
- a humble, almost quaint songwriting style
that's extremely personal but still remarkably
accessible. Expect an intimate and engaging
show that will make The Michigan Theater
seem like a small room. Speaking of, tickets
may be sold out for Saturday night, but word
is she's playing a semi-secret show earlier in
the afternoon at Borders that the store is try-
ing to keep quiet. Get there early.

Through the lens:
Japanese culture

For the Daily
When you enter UMMA's cur-
rent off-site exhibit "Out of the
Ordinary/Extraordinary," which
runs through Sunday, you might be
perplexed by the divergent images
that return your gaze. The pho-
tographs featured in the exhibit
range from
androgy- Out of the
nous youths
and pregnant Ordinary/
men to young Extraordinary
women play-
fully mocking Running through
Japanese pop- Sunday
ular culture At the UMMA Off-Site
and silhouetted
portraits of art-
ists. But as different as the pictures
of the 11 contemporary Japanese
photographers appear in style and
content at first glance, their works
have more in common than what
meets the eye.
Prominent Japanese art curator
and cultural critic Mishiko Kasa-
hara originally curated the exhibit
for the Tokyo Metropolitan Muse-
um of Photography. It explores
the commonalities of art's role in

Japan's society, where the cultural
fabric is worn thin by recent moral
and social crises.
A response to current strains
on cultural cohesion that resulted
from 1997's stock market crash,
increased violence rates and
nationalism that some viewed as
excessive, Kasahara's assemblage
of contemporary Japanese work
questions the 'roles of diversity,
identity and relationships in mod-
ern Japanese society.
One of the exhibit's highlights is
the work of Sugiura Kunie. In "The
Artist Papers," Kunie creates life-
sized silhouettes of visual and per-
forming artists like Yayoi Kusama
and Jasper Johns. While the sil-
houetted subjects lack defining
characteristics like facial expres-
sion, the success of the black-
and-white portraits rests on their
ability to capture identity. Though
the images are two dimensional,
they're solid enough to suggest
their place in a concrete real-
ity. Kunie heightens the viewer's
interest by combining four frames
in two of her portraits. This diver-
sifies the arrangement of images
and allows for variations in scale.
The story behind Yokomizo Shi-
zuka's photographs is undoubtedly

UMMA's Off-Site delivers. Again. Above: A still from Sawada Tomokos
Right: Okada Hiroko's "Future Plan #2."

enticing. For her series "Stranger,"
Shizuka sent letters to random
people titled "Dear Stranger,"
providing a date and allotting a
10-minute time frame for photo-
graphs. If the subject agreed to
her terms, he opened the curtains
at his home and faced the street
on the assigned date. The results
of Shizuka's experiment allow
the voyeur to break the boundary
between public and private. Her
subjects stare out ofltheir windows
directly at the viewer, offering up
their domestic space to the viewer.
The minimalism and openness
of the work appeals to a broader
audience, aided by its portrayal of
people not exclusively Japanese.

Despite the casual appearance of
her subjects (one holds a phone in
boxers and a hoodie), the photo-
graphs retain a performance qual-
ity because, in fact, the scene was
staged for the camera.
Okada Hiroko's works respond
to a prominent Japanese poli-
tician's suggestion that women
become martyrs to reproduction
instead of studying and work-
ing. Hiroko's proposed solution
to raise Japan's reduced birthrate
is somewhat unconventional. The
hilarity of her photos rests on effi-
ciency: males have babies. Com-
bining video and photographs,
Hiroko shows pregnant men shop-
ping for baby clothes and posing in

fertility clinics. The men appear
to embrace childbearing, despite
the clinic's dirty floor and dilapi-
dated curtains. If pregnancy were
as easy and joyful as it looks, as
Hiroko seems to say with her iron-
ic productions, then wouldn't the
world be a better place if men were'
responsible for it?

The artists' diverse works, while
motivated by current Japanese
culture, are relatable to American
audiences because they explore
issues that are essentially human
rather than definitively Japanese.
These studies in selfhood, ste-
reotypes and sexuality tease the
extraordinary out of the ordinary.

Welcomes UM Students and Faculty to a
Tailgate on Elbel Field, Saturday, September
15th, 11 a-3p, for the UM vs. Notre Dame game.
We want to meet you and invite you to come
talk to Googlers, enjoy some food and fun, and
get some free stuff!!
When: Saturday, September 15th, 1.1a-3p
Where: Elbel Field
Why: A chance for UM students and faculty
and Google to get to know each other better
Who: All UM Students and Faculty are
welcome to attend.
**Please bring your UMIdentification**
See you there! Go Blue!

Information Meeting
Monday, September 17, 6:00 PM
Michigan Union, Anderson D Room
for more information visit our website www.peacecorps.gov
or call 800.424.8580

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