Animal Collective is a band name that I know I’ve seen on several end of year ‘Best Of’ lists in the past. It’s a name that is already in my iTunes library, based on those lists. But it’s also a name that I know I have ever taken that next step with. The step of actually listening to them. But then I saw Merriweather Post Pavilion on yet another ‘Best Of’ list. I can’t remember where it was, but it made me finally pay Animal Collective some actual attention, of the listening kind.
Starting off with a psychedelic meditation that turns into a nightmarish sinisterism, that seamlessly slips back into weightlessly floating on a trippy cloud, In the Flowers brings together every negative attribute I would usually associate with any band described as ‘experimental’. But the end result is something hypnotising and easy to let wash over you.
A lesson in looping? An experimentation in looping? Someone discovering looping for the first time? I’m not sure where My Girls falls in that list, but it’s a great result. It could be a person showing how looping works by sticking to the basics. It could be someone pushing the idea to the absolute limit. It could be someone discovering the concept for the first time and not knowing when too much is enough. But as it builds and grows, it only gets richer and deeper.
Three tracks in, and Merriweather Post Pavilion has stayed a pretty true course of trippy positiveness. Then comes Summertime Clothes. It’s dark, droney intro gives way to vocals that sound like everything that came before, but there’s a cold darkness to its particularly video game sounding bleeps and bloops. The vocals belong to the first few tracks, but it sounds like Animal Collective is now recording them in a post apocalyptic wasteland where the machines have taken over. See also Taste, a little further down the track listing.
The middle section of Merriweather Post Pavilion settles into a pretty nice groove. Daily Routine and Bluish seamlessly morph into each other, more like an extended DJ mix of the two. Then comes Guys Eyes, a combination of Beach Boys style harmonies, possibly the first real drum kit I’ve heard on the album, and a vocal loop that should be creepy, but somehow never goes that far.
Apparently, Animal Collective takes the “collective” in their name pretty seriously. Their albums are made up songs that can include as few as one of the regular members. So coherency, consistency and connectivity is probably something I shouldn’t expect too much of from the band. But as the album came to a close with No More Runnin’ and Brother Sport, I was surprised with how much of a whole Merriweather Post Pavilion felt like.
Maybe Animal Collective is a bunch of separate people in different cities, individually throwing stuff at the wall, but a lot more of it sticks than I ever expected. It’s not the kind of album that makes me immediately want to devour everything the band has ever done. But it is the kind of album that makes me know that ‘experimental’ isn’t necessarily a dirty word. It might not happen anytime soon, but I’ll definitely be checking out more Animal Collective at some stage.