Sunday, September 20, 2009

Layers and layers of sound - Animal Collective

I don’t really have any plan to make my way through Polyester Records’ list of their Top 50 CDs of the last five years in any systematic way but, with a doubly enthusiastic recommendation from Lucas and Marty W, I couldn’t avoid throwing myself into No 2 today – Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.

It’s a very minimalistic disc as far as written information on the album itself is concerned – there’s some nice artwork there, but very few words: a few credits in teensy-weensy font on an inside flap of the outer cover, and a track list in very funky but, for me, totally illegible, print on the inner sleeve. And that’s about it.

But sometimes music has so much going on within it, and says so much on its own account, that anything else would be superfluous, and the music on Merriweather Post Pavilion is that sort of music.

So, at the risk of actually turning myself into superfluity, I will say a bit about this album, if only because the extraordinary fullness and richness of its music, bursting at every seam with innovation and life, exploding in every direction with energy and vitality, left me with an insatiable urge to talk about it. Shout about it, even.

Sound is what defines this album – lots and lots of sound. Every track does two things – it uses sounds that are highly original, and it uses stacks of them. These build up upon each other, creating layers and layers of resonance that leave you feeling that you could listen to the album a hundred times and still find something new in it. Listen, for example, to “Daily Routine”, and the way it starts with some strange stabs of sound from electric organ that build their momentum and then spring to life, with layers of percussion and deep echoing bass and guitars and vocals that grow into a surge of symphonic pop before giving way to massive sustained phrases, where you feel engulfed, like being in a immense cathedral of sound.

Or listen to the tribal drone that underpins “Lion in a Coma”, like some primal beast stirring beneath the earth, while millennia of humanity dance and stomp above it. Or to the quieter, swaying wave of “No more runnin”, where you get to stop for a rest, and to listen to the river stream flowing along beside you in the gentle gurgle and bubble of the electronic percussion and keyboards.

Anywhere you listen on this album you’ll hear music coming at you from every direction: cascades of sound that create a superb sense of space and, no matter where you listen to this music, you feel you’re outdoors.

Ultimately, though, the thing that makes Merriweather Post Pavilion so good is simply that it sounds fantastic. If you had it in the background at a party, it’s sure to be a good party and, within thirty seconds of hitting the play button all your guests would be up and dancing, even the ones who don’t dance. But if you let yourself just sit down and become really immersed in its energy and richness, its sheer celebration of itself, you’ll feel very inclined to tell any friends who come over while you’re playing it to just shut up and listen. And I reckon that would make a sensational party!!

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