Recorded in a poppy field under a sky full of rainbows, while bunnies and druggies and Teletubbies looked on, Animal Collective's newest psychedelic opus, Feels, leaves the question of emotion ("Feels like... what?") open-ended. The answer is, their latest experiments in mind elevation feel great. The group's seventh outing is an adventure in a poptronic wonderland where genuine sonic wanderlust and a healthy optimism about life is at the origin of every track—along with visions of such cozy concepts as a "wall of hums" brought to life.
Feels was recorded last April in Ballard with producer/engineer/KEXP live soundman Scott Colburn (Climax Golden Twins, Sun City Girls), who works out of a century-old church with 17-foot ceilings that offers such visual stimulation as candle and firelight. It was here that Feels came to fruition with core Animals Avey Tare, Panda, Geologist, and Deakin—who otherwise are based in various locales between the East Coast and Portugal. Their record meanders through blooming patches of acoustic and electronic instruments, harmonies and harpsichords, foraging in odd samples of what sounds like waterfalls, wind chimes, or maybe seawater lapping against a docked boat. Lyrics about bird entrails and blue bottles and cascading melodies lift your heart straight from its cavity and into the clouds. Vocals sound mined from campfire songs one moment and taped during a munchkin rollercoaster ride the next—sometimes even folding backward into a new celestial vocabulary, cluttered in the chirps and chatters of whimsical mechanical animals. Feels also includes contributions from respected local violinist Eyvind Kang and Icelandic pianist Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir (Múm, Mice Parade), who round out the organic/synthetic continuum.
Most depressives pay doctors, dealers, therapists, holistic healers, etc. good money to reach the space where Animal Collective levitate the mind through song—a wonderfully disorienting womb-state of carefree celebration that knows no typical, categorical structure. Relish in the sunshine beaming through the headphones on this one.
Outside of the latest from the aforementioned cosmic creatures, though, it was a mixed week for otherwise transcendent artists. Swedish folk-rockers Dungen blanketed the crowd in their native tongue for a night (in a performance that disappointingly didn't live up to the nuances on their record), and the Mars Volta made English a second language as frontman Cedric Bixler layered Spanish lyrics through sprawling Latin rhythms, funk, and free jazz. The latter show was one of the best I've seen in a while—coming together in a "prog package" with Hella (who stepped up to the plate with their performance, especially drummer Zach Hill, who hit his kit like a torrential hailstorm constantly shifting direction) and the monotonous aggression of System of a Down. The Mars Volta, however, are truly on some next-level shit, their music at times aspiring for the revolutionary electric expressions of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. It's hard to believe that Bixler and Omar Rodriguez were ever in a more straight-ahead post-hardcore act, save for the intensity of the rock rhythms when they do slide through the music.
I also spent the weekend going back into the catalog of world-renowned local legend Julian Priester since his recent award from the local chapter of the Recording Academy. On the recommendation of one of Priester's peers, I grabbed a copy of the trombonist's 1974 release Love, Love, one epic of a two-song, 40-minute kaleidoscopic jazz journey. Now it's a recommendation I'm passing along here. Love is a gorgeous labyrinth involving nine players, one funky bassline, orbiting synths, fluttering flutes and saxophones, and Priester's signature trombone work, among other gems.
If you couldn't tell from the Walgreens window displays, the holiday season is swiftly coming upon us—which means, among other things, celebrities donating lots of stuff to charity. And with all that earnestness in the air, what better time to take the piss out of older entertainers for a good cause? Vice Recordings just released the parody-for-charity single "Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?" (a riff off the old Band Aid hit "Do They Know It's Christmas"—a catchy song with some very unfortunate lyrics). The new track features an A-list crew of artists—Beck, Sonic Youth, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Arcade Fire, Buck 65, Devendra Banhart, Peaches, Sloan, Roky Erikson, Sparks, Elvira, the Postal Service, comedian David Cross. The pop disco single was co-penned by Nicholas Diamonds (ex-Unicorns) and pals, and its proceeds will benefit UNICEF.