Written in the same time period as previous record Time Skiffs; Isn’t It Now? furthers the notion that Animal Collective are a peerlessly playful band in a purple patch of melodic generosity.
Unlike Time Skiffs this new set was recorded live, a process which bears fruit on concert staple and album centrepiece ‘Defeat’, a track that has gently evolved through five years of road testing. Now sprawling beyond the 20-minute mark, it drones woozily, ascending and descending either side of the middle section’s hopeful chants. Lyrical themes of nostalgia, nature and perseverance are a consistent throughline in the band’s two-decade career and this humanist pulse is the steady beat upon which Animal Collective stage the different acts of ‘Defeat’s engrossing musical narrative.
Elsewhere ‘Soul Capturer’ is a characteristically rich opener that drips like thick treacle. Its follow-up ‘Genie’s Open’ begins as a glimmering slice of Animal Collective classicism, before the latter third canters into a floral ode to Neu!’s ‘Hallogallo’, with Avey Tare’s gurgling calls weaving in and out of the motorik beat. His voice is so unmistakably part of the Animal Collective sound: its excited bubbles and lower register giddy croons are a perfect foil to Panda Bear’s po-faced chorister.
As on Time Skiffs, sample and electronics manipulator Geologist’s interest in Renaissance music continues to show influence. Here it dictates the three largely acapella harmonies of final track ‘King’s Walk’. Decadent in its polyphony, the closer is a fitting curtain call to this fine chapter in the Baltimore four-piece’s evolving story.
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