By Maria Caetano
It’s not likely Beach Boys are well acquainted with the synth and beat of Animal Collective, but the latter seem to have gone through some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy after years of being compared, in strict denial, to the Californian old-timers. They are finally reaching the beach and they are bound to claim the territory for themselves.
The group is launching its tenth album, Painting With, successor to Centipede Hz (2012), somehow considered patchy and messy by the critics, however top-marked. Painting With promises a whole new experience. Animal Collective intended it to be punchy, upbeat and crafted to have its 12 songs running seamlessly through our ears before we are able to think twice.
Previous to this month’s release, passengers of Baltimore Washington International Airport were given a 24h-privilege of true airplay tasting, whether or not they were aware. Common listeners everywhere else had to go with looping the first two single releases of the album, Floridada and Lying on the Grass, to exhaustion.
Painting With grabs our visual attention first with a psychedelic splash of paint mixed from a 1980s palette. It is not unusual for the members of Animal Collective to reference from others’ clips and songs while emailing each other to prepare new works. Our wild guess is Duran’s Rio was streaming somewhere when Floridada’s video was conceived. It deploys loving fusions of humanoids and planets, plenty hypnotic twirls, and a proper Florida map animated in shocking pink. It dances before your eyes (and it comes with a warning message for epileptics).
Except there are no surfboards, we might just be in Beach Boys’s territory. Seven states to the West, the album was even recorded in Hollywood’s EastWest Studios, the cradle of Pet Sounds (1966), Beach Boys’ 11th album. Only, according to Animal Collective, the paradox lies in the fact that Painting With is much less Pets Sounds and much more Pet Sematary, it is less Surfin’ USA and more Rockaway Beach. Ramones are a stated influence, but not for the most obvious reasons.
This time – the first in which Animal Collective recorded without testing their songs live – , themes were timed to last between three to four minutes and to be all chunky meat, no bones, no downtempo, no room for distraction while we speed blithely towards a sunny beach. It’s the “everywhere place” we’re sang to as we approach the “blue bayou” – even if to find Roy Orbison crying. The succinct and light pace through which we make our way there is the Ramones’ invention – a recipe for success.
We’re still in February and everything tells us we’re spending summer with Painting With – in fact, whoever is in Portugal, in July, will be able to see them at Porto Primavera Sound. Despite all the collage and allusions, the extensive referencing of the band, what we are listening to is core Animal Collective, to no disappointment of fans. Floridada and Lying on the Grass are made of the usual energy-wave percussion and bouncing sound springs from which the interlaced vocals of Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) and David Portner (Avey Tare) take a jump. They’re joined this time only by Brian Weitz (Geologist). Josh Dibb (Deakin), the fourth member of the group, is launching solo work.
Painting With also brings in some important contributions from sax experimentalist Colin Stetson and Velvet Underground founder John Cale, even if it’s quite hard to spot. Both musicians have played in studio, adding sax — in Floridada — and viola — Cale in Hocus Pocus — to the drones in Animal Collective’s new album.
Domino Records, 2016