Albums Of The Week

Painting with the past

Painting With features (from left) David Portner, Noah Lennox and Brian Weitz.
Painting With features (from left) David Portner, Noah Lennox and Brian Weitz.PHOTO: HOSTESS ASIA

Animal Collective combine reverence for the past with fresh, manic modernity

After years of bristling at being compared to the Beach Boys, American experimental pop outfit Animal Collective have done the unthinkable - record their new album in the same studio that Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson used for Pet Sounds and Smile.

The funny thing is that Painting With is one of their least Beach Boys-sounding album.

The band have not shied away from multi-part harmonies and vibrant pop melodies. Their penchant for experimentation is still as strong as ever too.

But like robots on psychotropic drugs, Painting With sees the 17-year-old band dabble with an industrial-like, non-organic palette of sounds. The multiple voices are mostly masked with effects and they dance in and out and meander in between dizzy rhythms, sinuous synths and skittering beats.

The pace is mostly frenzied and the band do not leave much space for rambling jams, opting instead for concise nuggets that average three minutes.

The results, which featureAvey Tare (David Portner), Geologist (Brian Weitz) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), make for compelling listening and you uncover new sounds with every repeated listen.



    Animal Collective


    4/5 stars

There is a certain reverence for the past and not just in their decision to record in the studio where masterpieces by Wilson and Michael Jackson as well as soundtracks for films such as Planet Of The Apes (1968) and Poltergeist (1982) were recorded.

There is also the guest appearance of avant-garde rock guru John Cale, enhancing the track Hocus Pocus with some aural stardust via drone-like strings.

And then there is the unmissable and peculiar tribute to the 1985-1992 sitcom The Golden Girls, via a sample from the show in Golden Gals, itself a paean to strong women ("Golden Gal gave me my strength/She said I'll be here for you later, boy/Now run along you have to fall").

Elsewhere, Portner has an imaginary conversation with his late grandfather, who migrated to the United States from the Ukraine, on the state of current affairs.

"Bagels for everyone, that's the kind of thing you would have wanted," he says, later asking, "Have you since found some peace? It's like we can't escape all the noise and violence".

On opening track FloriDada, Portner questions the bad rap that the state of Florida gets from snobby non-natives and links the sentiments to the anti-bourgeois European Dada movement of the early 20th century.

Still, there is no mistaking the manic modernity of Painting With and, musically, this collection of pop oddities, with its woozy vocals, warped keyboards and wild arrangements, is as fresh as they come.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Painting with the past'. Print Edition | Subscribe