For those, like myself, frustrated by Animal Collective’s adventures into sound while delivering headline sets at summer music festivals, this EP is not going to light any fires. But for those who thought their breakthrough album Merriweather Post Pavillion was too mainstream, there should be some rich pickings.
Although three of the tracks are from the same sessions that produced the Merriweather opus, this new EP is more experimental. Think texture, ambience and sonic exploration. And then come back into the room. These are the extended jazz jams from the cutting room floor, only without the jazz.
Opening track ‘Graze’ starts off unpromisingly, with a lot of intricate texture but not much in the way of a tune. But then, just as you start to fear the worse, something wonderful happens… A panpipe solo! With it come a tune and a great lyric: “Why can’t i reach you/ when i most need you? Why do you have to go?” It’s the aural equivalent of the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, and almost as wondrous.
‘What Woud I Want? Sky’, which, fact fans, includes the first legal Grateful Dead sample, returns to the noodles for the first three minutes before another fully-formed song finally emerges. When it does, it’s rather beautiful.
After the ambient interlude of ‘Bleed’, which will either tickle your fancy or send you to sleep, ‘On a Highway’ trickles into your sub-conscience. It’s perhaps the nearest thing on the EP resembling a traditional song structure, a little bit Mercury Rev, but still a reassuringly long way from normality.
Closer ‘I Think I Can’ feels the most like a Merriweather out-take. Although meticulously crafted and containing a gorgeous Pet Sounds style vocal breakdown towards the end, it’s too little too late – this particular little grub will not be morphing into anything, I’m afraid.
Overall, unless you’re already a convert, this EP will probably test your patience just a little more than you would like it to. A nice one for the fans, though.
Words: Joe Downie