If you’re a people-watcher, you know goddamn well that it’s impossible to follow everyone’s story. While most individuals seem interesting in their own way, you have to pick and choose who and when you stalk carefully — oop, I mean, people-watch — or you’ll be at the frickin’ airport all day with nothing to do with that cattle prod you shoved into yourself to get past security (fuckin’ GROSS!).
A taste of Ra, if that IS their real name, are most definitely fascinating enough to deserve a thorough shadowing, but you might have big problems if you think tailing them is going to be easy; they rarely walk a straight line. Just when you think you have them clocked as they scat-sing along to minimalist instrumentation and trek down a city sidewalk, they duck into an alley, take a toot on the ol’ opium pipe, and start spouting lame poetry over increasingly meandering musicianship.
Once you show yourself and convince them to dispense with the prattling poetry crap, they begin shape-shifting and mumbling like a developmentally challenged changeling, zipping around in the air like one of those imaginary friends that can flit between buildings and do all the super-groovy stuff you can’t. You admire their zest for life and penchant for unpredictability; you’re somewhat pleased by their floating harmonies; you’re also unsure as to whether they really know what they want to do with their music besides get lumped into the psych-folk cloud of influence.
A taste of Ra are aimless. They beckon an introductory listen out of morbid curiosity, but save a few flourishes of concrete, memorable ideas — the final minute of “37 Turns ’Round You,” for example, features an appealing oldie sample circa The Robot Ate Me’s On Vacation — they fail to entice the listener to desire more than a taste, more than a modicum of the potentially rich sound they cultivate.
The future could hold great things for A Taste, as the presence of well-manicured flute, accordian, violin, piano, and clarinet attest. Many of Animal Collective’s early paw prints, especially those flaunted on Danse Manatee and recent reissue Holinddagain, showed similar structure, or lack thereof. They moaned, diddled, paddled and plunged into a world few thought possible, eventually finding a suitable inroad to better quality art — and more [wink] importantly, the Gumshoe Stamp of Approval — without sacrificing the fiercely outsider personality of their members.
A taste of Ra could very well do the same thing if they can find a way to balance their willful weirdness with a more fruitful, forceful dynamic, something less wish-wash-y and random for random’s sake. There are too many purposely flubbed notes, too many moments where style overwhelms substance. I don’t care how of-the-moment it is to make your clarinet emit hipster squeaks; it’s still annoying as the yelp of a dying yak. Until they learn to sand these rough spots down, this upstart troupe will only briefly hold your gaze before you allow them to disappear into the mist without a chase.