Animal Collective – Painting With (4 stars)

Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist return to the catchy pop of Strawberry Jam

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Animal Collective – Painting With

After 15 years and ten full-length albums together, you would be forgiven for thinking that Animal Collective may have reached an impasse by now in terms of musical growth. But the band is somewhat of an exception to the rule as they return with album number 11, once again illustrating their consistent artistry and reminding everyone that they still have a plethora of ideas and soundscapes left to share.

Working as a trio this time, Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist have taken Painting With in a direction that differs from recent releases, switching up the overall energy in favour of a gloriously catchy pop record that veers more towards 2007’s Strawberry Jam. In many instances, their trademark haziness has been replaced by a sense of brevity and clarity such as on lead single ‘FloriDada’, which features an instantly memorable hook and some playful vocal layering.

Avey Tare stated this in a Rolling Stone interview: ‘Everything seems drenched in reverb these days, and is so distant’. But tracks like ‘Golden Gal’ and the brilliantly structured ‘The Burglars’ seem to counteract this distance through the combination of staccato melodies and densely packed instrumentation. ‘Summing the Wretch’ and ‘Lying in the Grass’ both make use of bouncy polyrhythms and droney synthesisers which fit together harmoniously rather than the expected battleground of dissonance. Meanwhile, in highlight ‘Bagels in Kiev’, the band utilise interesting experimentations with pitch, taking the album into the more anticipated realm of psychedelia.

There are many contrasting elements at play in Painting With, but Animal Collective ultimately succeed in their attempts to make all these elements mesh into something less ambiguous than previous records and more direct, condensed and dynamic. It may have been 15 years, but the band continue to demonstrate their creativity and thirst for adventure with every release.

Out Fri 19 Feb, on Domino.

Animal Collective

Psychedelic experimental music from Baltimore, back with new album Painting With.

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