Strawberry Jam – Animal Collective
The disparate flavors of various inverted influences have led pop noise sculptors Animal Collective to Strawberry Jam, a consistently infectious union of melody and experimentation. Truth be told, in an era when a complete album with double-digit solid tracks is no longer de rigueur, the quartet manages to craft work with delicious headphone resonance. Songs segue with lush guitar and keyboard montages and an omnipresent yet subtle percussion undertow. The listener also has the added bonus of imagining an alternate universe featuring a mellow Frank Zappa producing an exotic XTC cocktail to create the new Animal Collective release.
”Peacebone,” the first single, begins the cavalcade of post-apocalyptic insect earbud magic with a clipped and tasty guitar riff. Right out of the gates, percussion is martial and pulsing with a confident sense of purpose as carousel keyboards zip in and around. “Unsolved Mysteries,” begins the Andy Partridge/XTC comparison with weird and beautiful sonic candle drippings splashing the ears to great effect. “Chores,” presents a chord progression as an echo chamber of freak show possibilities without too much eccentricity to spoil the vibe before easing into post-everything mountain chant music. Keyboards layer atmosphere for the final minute or so and suddenly the aural portrait turns from merely ear candy to a warm passage of looped harmonic structure.
“For Reverend Green,” ups the ante with echoed guitars ala My Bloody Valentine on a serious bendertricky melody and clipped Buckethead effects saddled to a heavenly melody. “Fireworks” carries the listener to the mid-point of the album and saunters through quite a bit of interdimensional studio landscape while wisely aligned to an undulating rhythm which anchors beat to terrain. Live, this song would probably present numerous detour possibilities into wonderfully strange locales. “#1,” however, is a whole other beast, as the album’s final section is entered with a keyboard loop, Bowie (any era) vocals and various sharp noise effects entering and exiting at their leisure.
If “Fireworks” is a masterpiece of pace and assimilation than “#1” is an (inter)stellar exercise in controlled tension with precision-cut mini-detours. “Winter Wonder Land,” is the Christmas song you want to play during the holidays and probably shouldcatchy, odd and the Wall of Sound as produced by the Island of Misfit Toys. “Cuckoo Cuckoo” contains some of that introverted gold found so often on their prior release, Feels, and serves as a good bookend to “#1” in an album leapfrog. “Derek” continues the subdued descent back to earth (?) and closes the album with a rattlesnake percussion effect wedded to an ascending tomahawk attack near its coda, bringing the whole friendly-insects-in-oblivion-with-a-really-heady-soundtrack-effect full circle.