When experimental psychedelic pop-rock outfit Animal Collective released their second audiovisual album, Tangerine Reef, in 2018, star member Panda Bear was absent from the lineup. However, fans will be glad to know that the songwriter’s bright and bouncy presence is immediately felt right from the first moments of album opener “Dragon Slayer.” Time Skiffs restores the band to its full original lineup of members – and the music is certainly all the better for it. Soaked in psychedelic bliss and fun wandering synth lines, this album is a return to a more jubilant sound after the somber Tangerine Reef – if not a complete return to form.
In a scathing op-ed published after the release of the celebrated Merriweather Post Pavilion, one music journalist derisively commented that the band sounded like “two Beach Boys records playing at the same time.” On this outing, it seems Animal Collective has not only taken this criticism to heart, but turned it into a general method of construction. The first single, “Prester John,” was composed by mashing together separate solo works by the band’s two lead vocalists, Panda Bear and Avey Tare, into something wholly new. Untangling their contributions in the mind while listening is part of the exhilaration for anyone willing to dive in and try to pry the music apart. Hints of classic psychedelia haunt the grooves throughout, and many of the group’s long-standing experimental influences are on full display.
While you won’t find a breakout crossover single on this record like the boisterous and joyful freakouts of “Who Could Win A Rabbit” or “Banshee Beat” – celebrated fan favourites from previous projects – there are plenty of new and exciting twists on the classic Animal Collective sound woven into the textures and rhythms on Time Skiffs. Though the approaches to sound manipulation and songwriting style are more subdued – daresay, even mature – this time around, there is plenty for fans both old and new to enjoy from these legendary experimentalists.