This decade-long collaboration was released in the International Year of the Reef with the intent of highlighting the plight of coral reefs and the severity of global warming. Depending on how much you enjoy structureless, ambient music, it is an audiovisual album that makes a splash or plumbs the depths of art wankery.
If you put this album on expecting Animal Collective's Wilsonesque pop hooks tinged with eccentric elegance, then you will be disappointed. Because when you are inspired by environmental devastation that seems worryingly close, pop music would take away from the gravity of the situation. The music itself stems from live improv jams while the fact it is primarily music that is a soundtrack to a series of visuals throws back to Animal Collective's 2010 album Oddsac.
Rather, this album moves at a glacial, dreamy pace. Humanity-the sole force responsible for global warming- has been completely swept away within the confines of Tangerine Reef.
The vocals are drowned in the band's melancholic electronica until they sound dispassionate and primordial. There are no melodies, no hooks, no chest-thumping choruses to be found across the 13 tracks that make up Tangerine Reef.
Perhaps it's due to Panda Bear's absence that the music lacks melodic shape and form – it just drifts along. The mood barely shifts from a weighted feeling of existential dread and doom- the only exceptions are the higher tempo Hip Sponge with its breathless chant “eyes on the prize” while Inspector Gaget hints at the playful Animal Collective of old.
This is undoubtedly their most introspective album since Danse Manatee and Hollinndagain although Tangerine Reef showcases a more textured gloss than its long-lost aural cousins.
This album is best listened to when juxtaposed with Coral Morphologic's hyperbolic visual stylings. When coral is alive, it is a vibrant, fluorescent hue, but bone white when it's dead.
The juxtaposition of vivid video art and spectral sound makes for the perfect juxtaposition of life and death. From the slow glimmer of opening track Hair Cutter to the sci-fi futurism of Coral Understanding, the harmonious ebb and flow between art and music creates an immersive experience that is quite unlike anything Animal Collective has ever done. Without it, it is a perfect album to meditate on or have in the background on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
An unexpected, but worthy return.
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Released: 17 Aug 2018