The first time that I listened to Young Prayer, I felt a bit underwhelmed. I'd gotten so used to anything related to the Animal Collective being so off-the-wall that the directness of this short 10-track release took awhile to sink in. Although there are tracks on the release that are a bit more layered, it's easily the most intimate and stripped-down thing that member of the Animal Collective have been involved in.
Probably the closest reference point to this release is the Campfire Songs effort that the group put out on the Catsupplate Record label a couple years back. Young Prayer breaths even more than that disc, though, as it most often finds Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) with just himself and an acoustic guitar (and some effects). Written to reflect upon the death of his father, the 10 tracks are given no names and even the vocals are nearly completely indiscernable. In freeing itself of all of the above trappings, the release opens itself up into an almost ritualistic territory.
The opening track finds Lennox singing higher and higher over strummed bursts of guitars that glint with a touch of electronics for punctuation at times while the third track is a short and lovely pairing of deft guitar and piano that feels too short at only a minute long. The centerpoint of the album also finds it at its most upbeat as looped vocal phrases move in a round while clapping and a 4/4 thump keep the track folding in on itself.
As mentioned above, the release is very sparse, but it most often works in favor. In the sixth track, soft vocals and guitars drift in and out as a drum kit is flirted with and subtle electronics float to the surface once as a lovely surprise. Although there is a good amount of variety on the release, it does drag a smidge in places. The five-plus minute high vocals/strummed guitar fourth track sounds similar to many other tracks on the release, but fails to really move in any different directions. If you're a fan of work by the Animal Collective, you'll probably want to check this out, but keep in mind that you'll need a little patience. Fans of experimental/improv folk should also hunt it down.