February 5, 2009

Test Spin: Animal Collective

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Animal Collective’s newest album, Merriweather Post Pavillion, is a hallucinatory crazy-quilt that is so seamless as to produce a new synthetic fiber. It achieves a feat few other “experimental” indie acts this side of Yo La Tengo or TV on the Radio can: it is eminently danceable while still rewardingly meditative.
The album is named after the Baltimore venue where the members had their formative concert-going experiences. While one may be irked by the band’s more-hipster-than-thou posturing, these newest songs are a deliberate attempt to appeal to a broader audience, refining on a post-avant sensibility of being okay with co-opting the marketplace.
Animal Collective seems, in fact, essentially interested in being a crowd-pleasing psychedelic jam-band for the iPhone generation. But that doesn’t discredit the innovation of the music, which combines bongo rhythms and electronica drone alongside synth chords that have a Philip Glass-style minimalism and Stockhausen-inspired punktuelle.
The lyrics echo in haunting, multi-tracked rounds, which can by turns ramify the listener with a propulsive clarity, mesmerize with a sonic kaleidoscope or ebb away like pond-ripples into heartbreaking decrescendos. While the whole album offers a sustained Robotrip for one’s homunculus, my favorite tracks might be “Bluish,” with its ecstatic tinkles and angelic chanting in the background, and “In the Flowers,” which proceeds through queerly pitched dreamscapes to a final explosion.