CD Review of Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective
Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Recommended if you like
Andrew Bird, Apples in Stereo,
Brian Eno
Animal Collective:
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

nimal Collective has never been known for making easily accessible music. In fact, to listeners with more traditional tastes, their strange combination of ambiance, effects and celestial soundbites may belie the very notion of what pop music is supposed to represent – namely, formula-fed melodies offered up for mass appeal and consumption. Still, in the free-for-all world of experimentation and dare-to-be-different insurgency, Animal Collective’s unwieldy and unpredictable soundscapes offer an odd appeal, particularly for those drawn to the more vivid excesses of techno, electronica and, yes, psychedelic designs of the odder order.

The band was formed by avowed experimentalists Avey Tare and Panda Bear in 2000 and has since evolved into a loose amalgam that’s recorded over half a dozen albums to date. Songs, as such, are never easy to identify; melodies and textures are constantly shifting, and any hint of momentum is generated more as a pulse than via a solid tempo. Nevertheless, there is something that’s uncannily mesmerizing about their work, and it’s no wonder that their efforts have attracted a growing legion of fans and critics as their partnership has progressed.

Merriweather Post Pavilion should allow them to continue that trajectory, and while it does little to expand their template, it does reinforce the group’s penchant for hewing to the unexpected. The 11 tracks flow easily into one another, sometimes blurring the breaks between songs and making the transitions seem somewhat ill-defined. Then again, as previously noted, these tracks aren’t actually "songs" in that sense to begin with – they’re more like whirling drones of melody dominated by atmospheric effects and cosmic choral chants. Opener "In the Flowers" more or less sets the standard, its gurgling preamble eventually giving way to disembodied vocals that soar over a surreal soundscape. The celebratory set-up of "My Girls" elevates the proceedings to a higher plain, while the cheery incantation of "Taste" ("Am I really all the things that are outside of me") adds a spiritual sensibility that Animal Collective often seems to be striving for, even though their methods are obviously more elusive and otherwise obscured. Likewise, a listen to "Guys Eyes" and "Summertime Clothes" offers a more compelling cause for contemplation, reason to rouse from meditation and bask in the undulating arrangements.

Ultimately, the Collective’s consciousness may not win over many new recruits; it’s too weird for the wary and too wacky for the weary. Still, indulgence does pay off, making Merriweather Post Pavilion a hypnotic hideaway for those seeking a sphere where dreams can mesh with desire.

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