Animal Collective were everybody’s best kept secret. All the psyched-up music fans had their barrel headphones blurting Sung Tongs on the bus, and gave barrel-chested looks to all the other people who were listening to the same thing. Though Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve vanished, Campfire Songs, Feels and Sung Tongs were big players in my library, it was Strawberry Jam that was their standout release. I was at college when I got possessed by it’s perfect combination of atonal mysticism and doses of succinct melody; glorious.
So 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion arrived and Animal Colletive emerged from their blanket, becoming borderline mainstream heroes; resulting in a burst of bands who wanted to recreate their sound, but you can’t really mimic the artistic depth that Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin, and Geoligist have.
A few years have passed: the guitar has come back, electric drums are banned from records, the counter-counter-culture dismiss Animal Collective as ‘hipster music’, and Coldplay are respected… WELCOME BACK ANIMAL COLLECTIVE.
Sixteen-bit synths accompanied by radio samples, broad percussion, and fluttering gestures – Honeycomb has begun. It flies by with a luminous pulse and a rapid BPM. The pronounced vocals arrive and are perfectly layered in the mix; it’s striking how many elements are involved in the track, but yet they’re in no way confining – everything has its own space.The timpani drums give Honeycomb a real organic backbone. This unexpurgated centre provides a distinct change in what we have heard from the guys recently; the sound of Merriweather Post Pavillion and Record Store Day’s release Transverse Temporal Gyrus being a casing point.
As is usually the case, if something is engaging, I enjoy having a gander at the lyric book whilst I listen for the gazillienth time. Unfortunately it’s just really hard to hear them but, though it is irritating, it’s hard to question their lyrical quality as their track record is great (From One Moment To A Next, A Shifting in the plates of what you ingest, From Sugared tits to honeyed pests, Bulimic vegetarian wins weight contest). They do conjure a real statement of vocal intent by all jumping in to shout ‘Life’ at you in unison with a cymbal but we’ll have to wait for an Iphone app to transcribe the lyrics fully.
More than some sort of complete independence from their back catalogue, what makes this single so interesting is that they’ve captured what they do best without being consigned to it. The intensity of Strawberry Jam, the band’s masterpiece, is present, but lest not forget that the space and movement of Sung Tongs is here, and its textural heartbeat is something David Byrne would be proud of. Let’s hope the forthcoming record has as much quality as Honeycomb and they can carry on voicing the ridiculous things that lie in everybody’s subconscious.
I can’t wait.