Album Review: Animal Collective's 'Tangerine Reef'
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
Musically, Animal Collective has always occupied the space between primitively organic and robotically absurd. Though the band bursts with inventive engineers who stretch sound and space to extraterrestrial means, they are deeply in touch with the natural world that confines their mechanical mischief, particularly the ocean. Geologist studied environmental policy (with an emphasis on the marine environment) at Columbia University and Deakin is an avid scuba diver, In fact, he and Geologist go on at least one scuba trip together every year. Since 2005, the two during these trips witnessed the destruction of the ocean’s coral reefs. This led them to Coral Morphologic. An art-science duo comprised of Colin Foord and J.D.McKay, Coral Morphologic creates beautifully psychedelic visual recordings dictated by time-lapse, informed by their scientific mission of protecting the world’s coral population. So when Coral Morphologic met Animal Collective at the band’s screening of their first visual album Oddsac back in 2010, the two entities proved to be a match made in heaven, collaborating on small side projects since. Nevertheless, the collaborator’s mutual fascination with coral and the ocean it inhabits is brought to fruition with the release of Tangerine Reef, a full-length audiovisual album commemorating 2018 as the International Year of the Reef. Described by the band as a "visual tone poem," Animal Collective pairs their knack for experimentalism with Coral Morphologic’s surreal images of coral and oceanic reefs. The result is an improvised psychedelic occurrence spruced with endearing intent. Dabbling with drone and indecipherable field recordings, Animal Collective’s Tangerine Reef is amorphous and transfixing by definition with the entire record blending into one extended cut full of hypnotic gurgles, aquatic whooshes and reverberating cries of a dying species. It’s eerily touching and must be experienced at least once. Despite the band’s recent musical blunders, Avey Tare’s transitive Eucalyptus proved to be a bright spot and even provided just enough excitement to warrant hype heading into the Animal Collective’s latest release. Unfortunately, Tangerine Reef is an ephemeral concept and not the band’s return to form fans have been expecting since 2012’s Centipede Hz. . Operating minus Panda Bear, the working trio of Geologist, Deakin, and Avey Tare wander into ambient realms with no apparent goal in sight. It all sounds pretty, but that’s about it. While each track seeps into one another with grace, the perpetual drone builds and builds into oblivion, thus leaving listeners wanting more. Tangerine Reef certainly allows room for imagination and moments of unpredictability, but because everything flows as one, there’s unlikely to be any stand out moments. With nothing to sink your teeth in, this album sans visuals may not be as potent considering its hypnotizing intent. Many will overcome the drone-y shift from Animal Collective, but those same individuals would be hard-pressed to deny the wonky, electronic fireworks the band earnestly honed into once upon a time. The Immediacy and hook-driven freakouts that defined Animal Collective’s back catalog seem to have been put on the back burner for now. With meandering sonic abstractions and opaque psychedelia shrouding the band’s recent interests, they’ve have shown once again, their unwillingness to stick to the sound that made them so magnetic and unique in the first place. While Tangerine Reef inspires as a pseudo-political statement regarding the deteriorating environment at the hands of mankind, Animal Collective ultimately disappoints with this record—it’s yet another forgettable checkpoint within the band’s recent run. But do not fret AnCo fans, their return to better days is near, just keep dropping the needle on that Sung Tongs or Merriweather Post Pavilion LP until that time comes.
THE 405 RATING: 5/10