Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Water Curses EP - Animal Collective

Water Curses

Animal Collective
Domino Records.

SCQ Rating: 84%

Strawberry Jam wasn’t hard to approach so much as it was hard to buy. 'Peacebone' was a great lead single and my initial reaction to a few other tracks was overwhelmingly positive but, somehow, I felt like my love for Animal Collective was waning. Hindsight doesn’t help me uncoil why I felt that way but their new material, as brazen and innovative as it was, felt emotionally barren. It’s a mystery I might have to revisit after purchasing Water Curses, an EP that is almost entirely comprised of outtakes from the Strawberry Jam sessions but sounds indebted to the grassy-knolls and wooded vistas of 2005’s gorgeous Feels.

Title track ‘Water Curses’ is the livewire here, a frantic throw-together of several song ideas that only Animal Collective are able to make sense of. An unforgiving assault of musicianship that somehow keeps pace of its complicated pieces, ‘Water Curses’ is closest in energy to ‘Grass’ but sonically latched to the electronic repetitions found on their 2007 LP. Through its final flutters and waves, we’re submerged into Animal Collective’s other forte: tripped out stragglers that wrap you in their psychedelic blend of ambience and effects. And although the EP never resurfaces from this twinkling aquatica, many of its greatest moments are buried and waiting to be found. If the flamboyant opener is considered the most exciting song, ‘Street Flash’ is undoubtedly the EP’s most important; an impressive mood-piece that is comforting but never resting long, assuming gradual transformations that betray its continuous key melody. Its beauty finally proves itself insurmountable as Avey Tare’s platinum screams over a bed of noise only increase our sense of solace.

The final two songs reach further into the abyss, acquiring stripped-down arrangements and skirting any immediate reactions. ‘Cobwebs’ is a bleeping atmosphere that feeds off some expert vocal-harmonizing but never seems at peace with its surroundings. That said, it’s still incredibly linear compared to ‘Seal Eyeing’ – the sole track that was recorded particularly for this release – which aside from a distorted voice and lovely piano line, is completely weighed down by the overflow we’ve watched accumulate over the first three songs. That ‘Seal Eyeing’ sacrifices some of its potential substance to embody this shining luster is hardly selfish; in fact, this final track concludes a flood that had been building since ‘Water Curses’ took a dive. This nautical theme also binds the EP’s four tracks in a way that makes their ‘outtake’ status seem insulting. Water Curses is another exciting chapter in Animal Collective’s inexhaustible discography that stands on its own between their celebrated Strawberry Jam and whatever mystic muses lie ahead.

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