The Painters EP by Animal Collective (2017)

Last year’s colourful and chaotic Painting With was met with mixed reviews, their tenth full-length being described as everything from “impeccable pop” to “the most annoying album you’ll hear” in 2016. Animal Collective have always been a band that have captivated and frustrated in equal measure, arguably reaching their peak in 2009 with the technicolor psychedelic pop perfection of Merriweather Post Pavillion and its more experimental follow-up Fall Be Kind EP.

The somewhat loose three-or-four piece, which revolves around the songwriting duo of Avey Tare and Panda Bear, have often followed full-length releases with EP’s of outtakes and other material recorded during album sessions. They often serve as a sort of clear out before the band moves in a new direction, but they also allow fans to hear how different the previous full-length could have sounded.

The Painters is quite interesting in that respect, especially given how difficult Painting With was to enjoy. The EP comprises of four-tracks, one of which is a cover, and clocks in at thirteen-and-a-half minutes. One major difference between the EP and the full-length is that the production is less dense, with the first half featuring two tracks which are more laid back and spacious than pretty much everything on its full-length counterpart.

Not only does ‘Kind Bonkers’ have a more relaxed tempo, it’s also more melodic and probably closer to the sort of material Animal Collective put out around 2004-2005, particularly the use of tablas. After the frenetic pace of Painting With, the easy-going approach is very welcome indeed, and it continues on ‘Peacemaker’ which revolves around a nice rhythmic bass and alternating vocals that are far more tempered than those on the full-length release.

So far so good, but sadly it doesn’t continue in that vain. The empty hyperactivity which plagued the Painting With re-appears on ‘Goalkeeper’, complete with faster paced alternating vocals and farting synths. The final offering is a delirious cover of ‘Jimmy Mack’, the 1960’s classic by Martha & the Vandellas. A highlight of their more recent live shows, it’s certainly fun to hear Animal Collective doing covers but it doesn’t quite work as well the studio as it did on tour.

Despite being around 1/3 its length, The Painters is still more interesting than it’s full-length counterpart. And much like Painting With, the latest EP is also likely to divide fans. However, within in it there lies hope that Animal Collective can climb out of their current creative slump.

Released: 17th February 2017

Label: Domino

Genres: Psychedelic Pop, Electronic Pop

Rating: Light 7

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