Animal Collective - Water Curses
There is a peculiar, aquatic sound on "Unsolved Mysteries," the second song on Animal Collective's largely acclaimed 2007 release, Strawberry Jam, which caught my ear right away. It is the gurgling of bubbles, a sound so tangible that I could see the bubbles arising to the top of the ocean in my mind. Rarely can bands accurately evoke such vivid imagery from their music, let alone from a mere sound bubbling in the background. The aquatic sounds were extremely effective on "Unsolved Mysteries," which leads one to believe that the in-studio feats of Animal Collective did not occur overnight. Thus, we are left with Water Curses, a four song EP, containing three songs from the Strawberry Jam sessions, which focuses on submerging its listener with the ambient sounds and atmosphere of water.
The EP begins with "Water Curses," a frenetic opener where experimental sounds whistle and glisten, only to abruptly mesh together-sounding like a sudden gasp of fresh air. Avey Tare's vocals are smooth and flowing, offering a soothing, almost monotonous, vocal delivery to a track that is otherwise a montage of fast-paced noises playing over a drum loop. "Street Flash" then juxtaposes the opening track, presenting a slow moving, simplistically melodic song, which depicts the sounds of a leaky pipe dripping in a basement. "Street Flash" noticeably contrasts Avey Tare's reverberating voice and the song's predominant beeping loop with brief periods of silence-strongly suggesting a sentiment of emptiness, which is backed by painfully wailing screams that are drowned out and altered into a looped melody. The song culminates with Tare's penetratingly scratchy screams echoing off the walls-an indignant outburst from the desolate depths of the song's basement.
The latter half of the EP fails to leave a lasting impression, though. "Cobwebs" continues from the murky basement of "Street Flash," until the repetition of the line, "We're not going underground," elevates the mood of the song, bringing it to a pseudo-crescendo midway through, where the playful repetition of the word "cobwebs" offers some levity to the song. Ultimately, though, the melody is anti-climatic, as the music retreats back into the gurgling loneliness at the basement floor. "Seal Eyeing" concludes the album with an underwater ballad, where melancholic piano notes eerily resound over Tare's indecipherable vocals-a track that is strange but ultimately forgettable.
While Water Curses is successfully evocative of water and is impressively cohesive for an EP, it lacks the ebullience that let Strawberry Jam shine. Water Curses proves that Animal Collective is able to take a distinct direction with their music, but, sometimes, improvisation and randomness are best-especially for a band that dazzles audiences with its bizarre sonic noises. Take the two good outtakes that did not quite fit in with Strawberry Jam and leave the rest.
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on 2008-06-26 SolitaryMan Said:
Great review man. This EP is hit-or-miss, and the real hit has to be Street Flash. When that song starts freaking out with the screams and the rather eerie melodies, I get that funny feeling up the spine that amazing little musical moments like that tend to deliver. Animal Collective are always challenging, and always enjoyable, truly one of the rare bands who deserve every bit of praise they get.