[Domino Records] *** 1/2
The processed sounds bleat, converge and tumble. Beats pulsate as majestic choruses build and build before giving way to layers of fuzzy synths that churn and then disperse. At times, one song sounds like three different tunes.
But bizarre musical transformations have long been the hallmark of Animal Collective, the avant-garde Baltimore band now based in New York. The group pays tribute to its Maryland roots on its new album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, named after the famed Columbia venue.
In stores today, the CD is the band's ninth release, and the effort is perhaps its most accessible album. That means Animal Collective has reined in the noisy psychedelia of its early years - for the most part. The new songs feel more spacious than before, punctuated with catchy choruses that work their way into your head and stay there.
Although some may argue that Merriweather Post Pavilion is a step in a tamer - dare we say - "pop" direction, the music still manages to push sonic boundaries of electronic pop. Echoes of techno's past, particularly Giorgio Moroder's groundbreaking mid '70s work with Donna Summer, are heard throughout the new CD.
But Animal Collective takes those ideas and sounds and flips them. "My Girls," a standout single, is probably the best example of how the band marries the exuberance of techno's past with modern lyrical cynicism. The cut builds from speckling synths before kicking into a booming, deep-bass groove accented with hand claps.
Other numbers, such as "Daily Routine," drone, then swirl, before surging in different directions. The effect is dreamy, to say the least, the kind of music that melts the brain. As with any Animal Collective album, repeated listens reveal stranger ideas and transformations. Throughout Merriweather Post Pavilion, the music is open-ended and striking, immediate and distant all at the same time.
Download these: : "My Girls," "Brother Sport," "Daily Routine"
Rashod D. Ollison