Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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The Baltimore-bred, Brooklyn-based Animal Collective have made a name for themselves by being something wholly other. Their music is convoluted, ecstatic, cluttered, noisy, scratchy, itchy and downright fun. Their last two full-length albums, 2003's Sung Tongs and 2005's Feels, create an acid campfire sing out -- with everyone singing a different blissed-out tune in as obnoxious and wildly creative a manner as possible. Sounds are layered on sounds are layered on sounds and are then separated seemingly at random. But Avey Tare and Panda Bear know exactly what they are doing. There isn't anything remotely excessive about AC's excess. They have, until now, presented a holistic view of the individual through the guise of consensus-building pop noiseadelia. With Strawberry Jam, the orgiastic aural carnival sideshow begins to change a bit. There is a growing tension at work here in the music. There is Panda Bear's warm, bubbling sunshine pop that's as childlike as Brian Wilson's or Bobby Callendar's. He's got the cosmic vibe that expresses itself as goodwill toward everything. It's full of padded moments and long, shimmering, blanketing heat. Check his wonderfully accessible hippie blurt in "Chores" when he exclaims: "...Now I got these chores./I'm never gonna hurt no one...I only want the time/to do one thing that I like/To take a walk in the light drizzle/At the end of the day/When there's no one watching." Who knows who's stoned on what? Acid is too easy for this kind of happiness. On the other hand, there is Tare's utter sense of alienation, his strangeness -- and estrangement -- from the limits and inconveniences of the human body and its politics, and his questioning of his own place in human relationships and interactions. It too can express itself as a kind of manic glee, but it's far more brittle.


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