The perception of an artist’s’ prolonged excellence can often thank gradually reduced expectations for that longevity; same applies for Animal Collective. After the underwhelming but still compelling Centipede HZ. and the largely uninteresting Painting With, this year’s EPs have seemed like a resurgence – even if they’re not.
The resignation that Animal Collective are a changed act, one that no longer experiments or edits the way they used to, means that glimmers of sunshine – Kinda Bonkers, Man of Oil – stand out all the brighter. The escape offered by songs that have the length to explore their sounds, and the care not to clutter themselves, generates a false sensation that the EPs as a whole can be marked as good.
They shouldn’t really, but they should still be taken as encouraging. There’s still only two great songs from the last 8 they’ve released, which is par for the course based on Painting With.
The Painters contained more approachable, accessible songs than their latest Amazonian excursion, but was also less refreshingly strange and closer to the wearyingly dense hubbub of its companion album.
The great Animal Collective songs now are increasingly found in their solo work – Deakin’s Sleep Cycle was a revelation, Panda Bear’s 2 for 3, and Avey Tare produces fitfully great music. No one knows what a Geologist album would sound like. This most recent EP is possibly the best hint – Amazonia meets Sung Tongs.
Geologist is a talent they need to use well. His sound collages are integral to Animal Collective’s signature sound, but they can also be overwhelming, particularly when the rest of the music is so busy.
The hope taken from these EPs is that Geologist and Avey’s time in the Amazon recording Meeting of the Waters has given them fresh perspective, and that they can take their experience of making an album with only one voice at a time back to the next AC album. The criss-crossing voices, again a defining tool, has become detrimental at this stage.
Space is needed, and these releases show they might be figuring that out again.
Somewhere in between impenetrable experimentalism and Beach Boys-based electro pop is Animal Collective. They’ve gotten themselves lost lately, mixing the two in the wrong ways, ditching one or the other, substituting quantity for quality. I think they’re coming out of the jungle though, and I think they might be on the right river again.
The Painters (Feb) – B
Meeting of the Waters (April)- B