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July 7, 2008 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Album: Animal – Water Curses EP

Water Curses packages a handful of Animal Collective’s leftover tracks from the hit-and-miss pop sprawl of last year’s Strawberry Jam, as with People, the follow-up EP to 2005’s Feels. The results are predictable, but welcome; the four tracks, for various reasons, didn’t make the cut for Jam, but are entirely suitable as a smaller, more condensed statement.

The title track kicks off the EP at pace, with quick acoustic strumming (the first unprocessed guitar AC have used in a couple of albums’ time) trading blows with bursts of sporadic keyboard melodies and pulsing drums whilst the ever-expressive Avey Tare bends his vocals into a childlike flurry of excitement. So far, no major surprises here – this track feels like a somewhat less focused middle-ground between the warm glow of Feels and the unsettling punch of Strawberry Jam. It still works, but with a bit of variation and a more interesting vocal melody ‘Water Curses’ could easily rival anything from Jam.

It’s with second track ‘Street Flash’ that Water Curses becomes worthwhile. With a slow reverberating guitar figure that could be the serene twin brother of Jam’s ‘For Reverend Green’, ‘Street Flash’ is evocative of some of the downbeat tracks from the tail end of Feels, and makes a wonderful respite from the furious rhythmic stomp that has so clearly defined AC recently. Entirely without drums, the song meanders placidly without a clear direction, relying on pauses in its simple melody for rhythm. Relatively empty, but definitely not hollow, ‘Street Flash’ is a welcome breath of fresh air for AC.

The last two tracks are fairly paint-by-numbers melodic noodling, with ‘Seal Eyeing’ trailing off into a warbling, jumpy finish to the EP Despite this, they’re still definitely worthwhile songs, as they showcase a more laid-back version of the hyperactive AC that Jam suggests.

It’s this showcasing of a different side to the band that makes Water Curses work. After the concise warmth of Feels and the slightly disappointing pop schizophrenia of Strawberry Jam, it’s reassuring to know that AC can still take it down a gear and revel in their penchant for breezy melodies void of the angst that often overcomes the joy in their songs. If you’re new to the band, this is by no means the best starting point (look to their archetypal modern folk sweep of 2004’s Sung Tongs for that), but it’s a satisfying chapter in the often incomprehensible but strangely compelling Animal Collective story.

[ssba]

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