Imagine a space party under a river -- if that sounds appealing, then the Animal Collective's latest might be to your taste.
This New York experimental-pop band seem to be embracing a more poppy sound in the "Water Curses" EP, along with bubbling samples and a distinctly Beateslesque vocal style. I have no idea where this new style will take them, but they pretty clearly aren't running out of inspiration anytime soon.
It opens with a growling guitar, a ripple of bubbling water... and rapidly blossoms into the colourful, rippling sounds of the title track, punctuated by swaths of spacey synth. The murmured lyrics are just as watery: "I want to be like water/and never need a doctor/and carve the earth without my tools... I want to be like water and slip into your throat/and make you feel alive and good."
Once the twitters and bubbles of that song have faded out, we get the meditative spaciness of "Street Flash," which sounds like the Beatles stayed up all night in the woods, complete with feral roars. "Cobwebs" sounds even spacier, a meandering and trippy little song that just sort of floats away into the stratosphere as Avey Tare pronounces, "I'm not goin' underground!" over and over. If you say so.
And then more bubbles. And wind. And hammering. And what sounds like whistling. And a piano.
Having completely confused me about the sound of "Seal Eyeing," the Animal Collective slips into a gentle, ethereal little song that just sort of floats around in a haze of piano, eerie synth and odd sound effects. Avey Tare's voice voice wafts through it like a wistful ghost, even as the melody becomes more cluttered with odd strings.
I have to admit, my adoration of Animal Collective tends to fade between their various albums and EPs. Then whenever they turn out something new, that frothing adulation comes rushing back -- and "Water Curses" reminds me of why I do. It sounds quite different from their past albums while still retaining that catchy chaos they do so well.
It takes a lot of the more ethereal moments of "Strawberry Jam" and gives them a fluid feeling -- there's a lot of clear guitars tangled around with clattery drums and weird windy synth, some odd shaky percussion, and a piano that ripples through the last song like a new spring. These are further embellished with a wealth of odd sound effects -- handclaps, what sounds like a bottle being tapped, endless bubbling noises, birdsong, flutters, squeaks, and other noises.
Avey Tare's voice is not terribly impressive most of the time, but he is able to wind it down into a eerie, almost ghostly sound, or back up into a jolly woodland party-boy. The sheer weirdness of these lyrics is enough to stagger you, but at least it fits the music ("The left skies poems about poisonous berries/out of the fire of nature burning up your sheet/you know I only sting so/that I feel alive...").
"Water Curses" reminds me why I adore the Animal Collective, and unveils a liquid new sound for their unique experimental rock sound. Definitely worth hearing.