Animal Collective – [Album]

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Anyone else find the light-speed distribution of mass media a bit frightening? Does anybody else find the incredible availability of conspicuous critiques and music-related bibble-babbles relentlessly shoved down of all our throats via radio, via television, via the quicksand-vacuum that is the internet, unfathomable?

Especially when it comes to a medium as subjective as music, I’m in a constant state of awe in the face of music journalism availability and how quick reviews pop up like rabbit offspring. It’s hard for me to imagine insightful criticism bursting seconds after a first lesson or judgement of an artist when very often the only source of information are the obscure chicken-scratches blipped on a MySpace profile (Does Facebook have a band profiling system yet? MySpace is sooo last season). Too many times have I gone back to my own work—day, months, or years later only to second-guess my critiques. “What the hell was I thinking?” I ask as different times, places, and experiences paint my perspectives completely different colors. With this in mind, I don’t feel ill at ease for the tardiness of this review, as anyone who knows anything about anything knows, acute reception of Animal Collective’s brand of kaleidoscopic storytelling takes more than a couple of listens.

It comes as no surprise that the over-saturated, sprawling cheekiness of third full-length album, Strawberry Jam, actually sounds like that of a thickly-gelatinous, homemade tin of jam, fermented by its unexpected existence a few years after its mark—and while it’s going to be still somehow deliciously, almost indescribably sweet, you are inevitably going to get high. The effervescent density of its perfectly unkempt chaos sparkles like spontaneous fireworks in the middle of autumn—an elaborate expression of psychedelic and dramatic beauty. The crackling introduction of “Peacebone” prickles like a feverish riot of insects, but at the guidance of an adrenaline-pinched heartbeat, molds into a melodious tale of monsters and magic. While roaring samples become more prominent, their gathering constructs a chorus of cries, but it’s not tragic, it’s not angry—it’s freakishly happy. This type of introduction, although sticky to the touch, brilliantly flashes flesh-colored sophistication in its dreamy complexity despite its invasive tactics.

Maintaining this sense of urgency, the guitar chords of “Unsolved Mysteries” that provide both rhythmic and melodic regulation, sound as if they are produced by scabby, blood-soaked fingertips, which makes the hook “Jack the Ripper” all the more effective. The spacey liveliness, filled up with bubbly playfulness creates a safe haven in the site of grotesque imagery. While lyrics as demanding as “stop crying like a child” appear, they are not physically threatening as the free folk quality of the music builds a blissfully surreal and dreamlike state.

If music was an empty white wall, Animal Collective would be a claustrophobically-cluttered attic wall with circus-colored memories and no signs of white left. Although songs first appear odd, riddled with obscurity, sounding mechanical and foreign, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sonic attack creates this very human and organic quality that reveals a big, beating, bleeding heart. While “For Reverend Green” frantically itches with noisy discomfort, it effortlessly blooms into a glimmering cycle of pulsating echoes, which make for a seamless transition into “Fireworks,” dazzling “#1,” and the ghostly stunning “Cuckoo Cuckoo.” No space is uncovered as each track gorgeously inflates like a bit of spiked, fluorescent pink bubblegum, but it’s not all full of hot air.

Like public spaces have enforced capacity limits, Animal Collective overflow the sonic space’s capacity with their first serving. While one would think it’d be wise to slow down or stop completely, they just keep going, creating this incredibly dense abundance of convoluted mind-warp. It’s all too easy to surrender to. It’s all too easy to get lost. Strawberry Jam will probably rot all of your teeth out of your mouth, but the high is completely worth it.

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