Digging: Animal Collective

Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam
Domino (2007)

A few nights ago I saw Animal Collective play live at The Forum in Melbourne. It was a great show, an amorphous pastiche of songs from right across their career. Every track bled into the next via noisy and atmospheric improvisations that harked back to the chaotic nature of their early recordings. Every song they played was warped beyond its recorded format, which was as exciting for us, the audience as it was for the band themselves. And when they played Fireworks, possibly my favourite Animal Collective song ever, I realised just how fucking much I love the album from whence it came – Strawberry Jam.

There are Animal Collective fans who struggle with this record for its significant change in direction. Its synthetic sound is light years away from the Shamanic climaxes of records like Here Comes the Indian. If you ask me, that’s why it’s so freaking awesome.

It’s as if they translated the magic and whimsy of what they’d become renowned for and processed it into something gelatinous, sugary and wonderfully artificial. It’s the sound of thousands of different colored plastics melted down in the sun and oozing together into swirls of candied goodness. Strawberry Jam is a series of 4-5 minutes songs that bubble and froth in unexpected ways, never quite grooving, never quite soothing, never quite breaking the mould but never sounding like anything else put to record either.

From the demented Calypso jam of Chores, to the evaporating electro bounce of Peacebone, to the sparkling collages of Number 1 and Cuckoo, Strawberry Jam covers a huge amount of ground in a short amount of time. And while this couldn’t be classified as noise in the sense of being abrasive, discordant or unstructured, Strawberry Jam CAN be considered noise in the sense that it has no peers, and only the vaguest of reference points. Those who like adventures will find plenty of unexplored territory here.

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