Jane – Berserker

Jane
Berserker

The members of Animal Collective have officially reached the saturation point where they a) hit “record” every time they pick up an instrument, and b) immediately release that recording. It’s how we get mixed bags, like the off/on/off again strum-fest of the recently re-released Campfire Songs. It’s fine for fans of the band, of course – all it means is that in 60 years when these guys die, the posthumous releases will suffer. So it goes with Jane, a group composed of Noah Lennox (Panda Bear from AC) and Scott Mou, an employee of the annoyingly trendy New York City record store Other Music.

Berserker is one of several Jane discs now seeing a wider release after having been sold exclusively at Other Music. Unlike many of the AC-related releases up to this point, Jane succeeds in breaking away from the frantic acoustic guitars and psycho-choir melodies. Rather than highlight the melodic aspects of AC’s sound, Jane strays in a different direction, using drones and crackling atmosphere as its musical foundation. Lennox contributes his signature, high-strung, singing-without-saying-anything vocals while Mou handles the churning soundscapes.

The title track is the best (and at six minutes, the most efficient) summation of Jane’s aesthetic: floating keyboards dusted by light percussion, with Lennox moaning in the background, distant, disconnected. This continues for the duration of the track, with larger and smaller bursts of noise interjected. It’s a remarkably homogenous mix, considering the fairly subtle textures the duo uses. “Slipping Away” is the only track on which Mou allows percussion to hold anything more than a textural role. Grimy, almost-industrial beats slip to the forefront, speeding up to what feels like a breakneck pace halfway through the track. It’s no surprise when the track dissolves into a wash of silver noise, but it takes on special significance after the record’s only moment of momentum.

A detailed discussion of the remaining two tracks is mostly unnecessary. “Agg Report” is a placid instrumental, and “Swan” is an interesting, if over-long, drone. Despite the presence of only one AC member, Lennox, and the fact the Jane highlights elements of AC’s music that are often buried, Berserker still feels like an AC release, and as such, it feels a bit unnecessary. But for fans of Lennox and/or ambient drones, Jane is an interesting project from two inspired and prolific musicians.