Artist: Animal Collective
Due Out: November 23rd (digital)/December 15th (physical)
Perhaps Animal Collective will never recapture balled up, pure energy quite like they did on January's Merriweather Post Pavillion. A testament to how far they've come over the past decade, the album was a pop masterpiece, littered with the type of tracks the band just never seemed to possess to that point. It was a catchy and mesmerizing trip full of lush and strange scenery the likes of which we've rarely witnessed. And yet, they've almost pulled it off again with their latest effort, the Fall Be Kind EP, albeit with just five tracks to work with.
To start, Fall Be Kind is not Merriweather Post Pavillion. In comparison to the ladder, the former is raw, untamed and loose. Fall Be Kind is, in many ways, a return to the norm for a band that has made a living out of making out of disjointed song structure and a lack of audible lyrics for the majority of their careers. Yet, it's also ushered in a new era for them as well. Obviously, based on the offerings here, extensive electronic sampling and experimentation are now here to stay in the Animal Collective repertoire, and there's no going back.
Though we spoke of opener "Graze" yesterday on the blog, it is good enough to note again. When viewed in the full experience, the song stands as your sampler for how the rest of the effort will go. It's constantly shifting, from its beginnings in low, shallow ambience to the quiet middle, and then the crazed, flute-based conclusion. Even in its quieter moments, this track, and all the others always seem to have much more lurking in the background. It's a rush of energy that only shows itself every so often, yet for those fleeting minutes, define the recording.
Which is where the collection's top track, "What Would I Want? Sky" comes in. Sampling the Grateful Dead's "Unbroken Chain," it utilizes subtly brilliant bursts of unkempt creativity to ingrain itself into the listener's consciousness. Though one would initially judge it as a complex piece of art, by the mid-point, it reveals itself as the rest of the album does-- an exercise in satisfactory simplicity. The song is catchy and thoughtful all at once, and brings together all of the band's respective styles better than any track they've ever assembled. From the opening notes you'll know that this may be one of the best songs the band has ever written, as insightful as it is basic. As easy-to-digest as it is mind-boggling.
The overriding sense of honestly disheveled noise continues throughout the remainder of the album. Though "Bleeding" incorporates it all into a much more subdued package of echoes and layered vocals, "On A Highway" takes a much louder approach. It's mechanical, futuristic and distant, pitting walls of sound against teams of voices. Even when it all comes together with a helpful percussion section at the halfway mark, the song still fights itself continuously, raging in spite of the apparent semblance of order.
To close, "I Think I Can" gives us a trippy, ghostly trot. Tribal drums, which make cameo appearances throughout the EP, join forces with incessant chants to rope us into a track that is covertly pop. Like everything else here, you just can't fight the wordless hooks the band has become so apt at. The continued sampling and looping repetition will invariably grab you for the full seven minutes of this final number, and before you know it, Fall Be Kind is suddenly over.
For a follow-up to their most commercially- and critically-successful record yet, the Fall Be Kind EP surely delivers in a way that few (myself included) would have imagined. Instead of attempting to recreate the sounds of Merriweather Post Pavillion, the band recreated its older sound in its new image. Trading in the frenzied, spooky ambience of their early days, today's iteration instead makes superior electronic noise with samples and experimentation-- not an easy feat in a scene increasingly crowded with such acts. Yet, they continue to excel. Before our very eyes, Animal Collective has become one of the most prolific acts to the 21st century. Prepare accordingly.
Best Track: "What Would I Want? Sky"