Label: FatCat Format: 2LP,CD
Sometimes there are groups who are so off the wall that it’s a bit of a trip just hearing them for the first time. With Animal Collective, it’s fair to say that their oddness continues for the second, third and pretty much every listen, and Feels is one of their strangest and most compelling releases to date. Fortunately, it’s also one which is so easy to get lost in that one song segues into another slice of wheezing, groaning Folk-inflected psychedelia with such a reasonable sensory flow that it’s about half way through the album before noticing that Feels is not one entity, but is actually divided up. The music sounds as if it grew, rather than being composed, lyrics often uttered through a haze of effects and drones with an earnest sense of meaning yet while remaining largely opaque: though frankly interpretation often seems superfluous, instead letting the words wash past as part of the flowing stream of consciousness seems to work best.
Instead, the listener is invited into a semi-shamanic otherworld of shifting perceptions and apparently significant symbology from which meaning is to be deduced rather than spelled out; the words and sounds form a riddle which need not necessarily be comprehended in a literal manner; more understood in a more gnomic context, not intellectualised but almost breathed in with the curious structures. Orchestrated as if underwater or in a dream, the Animal Collective conduct their guests down beguiling auditory pathways, hinting and whispering their guarded stories until suddenly there is an upbeat swirl of evocative activity. One such is “The Purple Bottle”, which sounds something like “Virginia Plain” redone by The Residents and The Holy Modal Rounders at the same time, and gloriously Other above all: complete with whoops, yell, mysteriously harmonised choruses and helter-skelter percussion, it marks an atavistic highpoint to Feels which remains tucked in a primaeval backbrain for days after listening.
Likewise “The Bees” flirts with comprehensibility before scraping off into hallucinatory drones of suitably repetetive nature, as if being cornered by a slightly touched interlocutor in a remote rural area; “Beanshee Beat” builds up the tension on the sounds of cracking undergrowth and a rising rhythmic intensity which howls off with an epic passion which is only emphasised by the hesitant trumpeting which heralds an unresolved dissolve back into the woodland rain. The almost overwhelming sensation prompted by Feels remains one of uncanny recognition: that these are songs and sounds which have been heard before, but not necessarily while awake. Animal Collective make their music waver with déjà-vu, touching the familiar while maintaining a curious sense of mystery and unspoken knowledge imparted by osmosis; and if that isn’t worth being befuddled by, then who knows what is.