After 2016’s Painting With, indie force Animal Collective have followed up with a companion EP that expands and extends on their sound while still maintaining an experimental element.
It is impossible to talk about anything Animal Collective has done without mentioning their past works; partly because they have put out some of the most colorful experiments in sound over the past 17 years, and partly because each project they work on has a distinct feel to it. That being said, I will try to limit the sentiments of looking back at the band’s older, syrupy albums and EPs.
“Kinda Bonkers” is the first song on The Painters, and opens with a breathing, living gush of congas and vocals. The stripped-down opening of the song with only two elements adds to the ancestral air of the first eighteen seconds of the album, but the clarity is short-lived, and sharply evolves into a jam, both musically and lyrically. The stanzas are loose, hinting at a deep connotation, but never really diving down into the depths of human experience. With the Earth becoming a stranger animal every day, sometimes all there is to say about it is that it’s pretty bonkers.
The second cut on the four song project is what sets it apart from 2016’s Painting With; it is the “Street Flash” from Water Curses, the “Bleed” from Fall Be Kind, the “Must Be Treeman” from Grass, the “Tikwid” from People, and the “It’s You” from Prospect Hummer. “Peacemaker” lays you down for three minutes and lets you drink in the music. The disjunction of each word, akin to Panda Bear’s unintelligible lyrical style, lends itself to getting lost in the music, and does not seem forced like it does in some Painting
With songs (re: the heart attack that is Natural Selection). From time to time lyrics can be parsed through, fragments such as “got so strange… comes up to show… let it in… something stirs within the maze, an image rests upon… the heat of anger… is this impulse from feelings…” give the cosmic confusion some direction. This song is the reason I have listened to the EP seven or eight times since release; it worms its way through the space it is in, dangling what sounds like chimes, bells or harps just out of recognition. But this track is far from an ethereal atmosphere, with a soft and simple beat that runs through it like blood. On top of these elements is Noah’s vocal orchestration, which as I mentioned before is tumultuous and surreal, but one aspect that adds to the complex color palate of “Peacemaker” is the childlike oohs and aahs (think “Leaf House” from Sung Tongs).
The EP wakes up after “Pacemaker” and hurls the listener into one of the most puzzling tracks the group has put up to date. “Goalkeeper” is the brainchild of Geologist, who has been hinting at this song for the better part of the past year, and seems to be about a goalie… or a metaphor for a goalie… it sounds cool though, certainly a fun song If you are not tired of the slap-bass type synth used over and over in Painting With.
The Painters ends with the most puzzling tracks the group has put up to date, A cover of Martha Reeves & the Vandella’s Motown Gordy lick, “Jimmy Mack”. The space-age intro to this song is one of the highlights of the EP, which is, again, followed with an abrupt transition turning into a messy up tempo refrain that seems to be made for live performances. The cover is the longest track of The Painters, but sends the project off with a colorful bang.