I was high when I reviewed the last Animal Collective album. Not that it changes what I ultimately thought about the album—it stands up incredibly well—but I will admit that a “higher” state of mind helps with how the album sticks to your grey matter.
For Merriweather Post Pavilion, I decided to take on the listening session with nothing more than a glass of Cranapple and some residual Vicodin floating through my bloodstream. I’d like you to think that the new found sobriety was intentional, so let me make myself perfectly clear: if I had any evidence of weed or usable resin to scrape, I would have gladly complemented the new Animal Collective record with a few hits. Since I didn’t, the latest was reviewed as clean as the ice that’s currently sealing my backyard.
As it turns out, recreational enhancements aren’t really needed with Merriweather. I’m sure they’d enhance things just fine, but the harsh edge of AC’s psychedelia now have smooth edges and (gasp!) accessible, user friendly passages. It’s the best album for new fans to gain familiarity with the group, and it just happens to be their most perfect album.
The accessibility aspect has nothing to do with the praise. The perfection comes from how much is going on in nearly every song and how wonderfully flawless it all seems. Merriweather sounds like David Portner (Avey Tare) and Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) came close to maxing out those unlimited tracks on their computer-recording program while composing everything. There’s not only the effort that came from capturing everything, but from the process of whittling down those unlimited tracks into something that you can aurally wrap yourself around.
When you do, you’ll find melody and playfulness abounding in the interweaving collages that pan around and drift in and out of the mix. This may be the first album that actually manages to sound like a huge endeavor when pumped through shitty earbuds at 128 kbs.
How they’ve achieved this is hard to explain. Not so long ago, a completely novice music fan could purchase various music loop programs like Acid, choose passages of music, loop them together and “create” a song. More advanced users could do things like the pitch, tempo, etc. and tweak them to a point where it could become noticeably disconcerting from the original passage. The program was a lot of fun and the possibilities were infinite. What Animal Collective has done with Merriweather is use that same idea with totally unique loops as their source material. They then jack the shit out of them so that scratches, bass pulses, electronic blips and other weird effects infect the loop. These loops get chopped, sped up/slowed down, and cut and pasted next to each other so that there may be a dozen segments in the confines of one song. At this point, a collage of harmonies repeating phrases and/or lines of incomprehensible lyrics are added on top of everything. How they make it work is beyond me, but it’s unlike anything you’ve heard before and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll hear such schizophrenic soundscapes sound this great.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is an album that grows with each listen, and with so much going on in between your ears, you’ll discover new moments each time. It may take some time to fully appreciate AC’s genius that they’ve obviously sweat over and studied for while making this record, but once you have, you won’t even miss the herb that helped you realize the band’s previous efforts.