mon 08/08/2022

Album: Animal Collective - Time Skiffs | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Animal Collective - Time Skiffs

Album: Animal Collective - Time Skiffs

Psychedelic wanderers return to an elegiac American Eden

Animal Collective were getting themselves back to Joni Mitchell’s Edenic Woodstock garden right from the start – musically evoking the natural high of a 5-year-old’s wide-open wonder, in their case heightened by hippie schooling in rural

sdesk">Maryland. Since rejecting the regal indie status offered by their avant-pop breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009), the very idea of career peaks and troughs has been ignored as an ego-trip dead-end, replaced by wandering, often fractured progress, as when a duo version of the Collective’s quartet made last year’s trippy Crestone soundtrack. As the first full band album in six years, though, expectations for a Merriweather-esque, weird-pop resurgence still accompany Time Skiffs.

The South and the freedom of old New Orleans jazz, Eric Dolphy’s bop, and cinema’s yearning gentrification fable The Last Black Man In San Francisco were amongst the mulch feeding into Time Skiffs’ making. Drummer Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox’s love of Caribbean drummer Lloyd Knipp is certainly pertinent to its bursts of Calypso ebullience. “Strung With Everything” is pure carnival pop, with its smashed drums and smashed, huskily ecstatic vocals. Where The Beatles homaged Motown with Rubber Soul, the epic “Cherokee” is plastic dub, magicked from Lee Perry’s ganga-fogged Black Ark to a soft play area, the music’s padded impact suggesting a Spacehopper odyssey. Talking Heads’ ethno-psychedelia may also inform its shifting time-zones, as a mantra, “the spirit you love”, floats in the mix, and half-heard lyrics seem to prophesy post-recording news - “suckered in the party gates”. Maybe they’ll coalesce into other words later, in music of mutable positivity.

“Prester John”, named after the mythic Eastern Christian king, has its slow, ceremonial progress marked by dub skitters and needling steel guitar, while “Walker”’s coda tumbles across collapsing, echoing space. The album’s spare arrangements have thickly maximal, softly percussive textures.

Merriweather saw Animal Collective take on Mercury Rev’s lysergic Americana mantle and, as these second-childhood masters hit middle-age, elegiac reflection on their nation seeps into the wonder. During the packed, tidal soundscape of “Passer-by”, we’re “before the movie show”, where “I keep thinking about your smile”; “now I miss the passer-by…”

The final stretch fully addresses Time Skiffs’ title, as “We Go Back” falls into stream of consciousness, spiritual nirvana: “Tremble in the moment, tongue in cheek, I feel the urge to turn back time/…I ripped up a moment’s worth of love, I can see we’re just beginning/…Listen to the sound of people hoping, that in the moment there’ll be bliss.” “Royal And Desire” is Beach Boys music as slow-motion prayer, its cosmic, sun-kissed languor offered as a gift. At a time, like many before it, of weariness and fear, it finishes a fulsome, restorative comeback.

As these second-childhood masters hit middle-age, elegiac reflection on their nation seeps into the wonder

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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