In the course of the last decade that has passed since the release of Animal Collective’s watershed album “Strawberry Jam” the experimental pop/rock pioneers have developed a penchant for utilizing frenetic electronics and seemingly infinite layering. Such ambitious and impressive musical prowess within an experimental pop/rock framework could be compared to painting a simple image with the most intricate of techniques and vivid colors. At their best, Animal Collective have pushed the boundaries of pop, psychedelia and what constitutes listenable, yet high quality contemporary music. In recent years however, Animal Collective’s ability to surprise has stagnated, with “Centipede Hz” and “Painting With”, – the Baltimore outfit’s two latest releases- failing to stretch our imaginations with the inventive flair we have come to expect.
Yet, founding member Avey Tare’s (David Portner) new release “Eucalyptus” is a refreshing and somewhat unexpected return to the basics. Stripped down, mellow and stretched out acoustic lines meander seamlessly with atmospheric electronics. The innovative and restrained delicacy of “Eucalyptus” stimulates the curiosity in a way that reminds us of why Animal Collective was so fun to listen to in the first place.
All of this is not to say that “Eucalyptus” is a departure from the impressive complexity and high level musicianship from past Animal Collective albums. Because of the hazy and trance- like ambience created by this album, it would be easy to overlook its real ambition and intricacy. It almost feels as though the hour long album was recorded in one continuous take, belying the plethora of instruments featured throughout. But “Eucalyptus” takes on just as much musically as any previous Animal Collective album, merely with acoustic instruments/restrained electronics. Atmospheric, eccentric, sometimes cacophonous, and always adventurous, “Eucalyptus” shines with a unique creativity that has breathed fresh life into the idea that Animal Collective and its members’ solo projects can still invigorate and confound their listeners.