Tangerine Reef (Domino) Rating: NNNN Aquatic seascapes of alien coral with neon tendrils spawn and sway in cosmic coexistence while ambient soundscapes flow fluidly in the background. That’s what comprises Tangerine Reef, Animal Collective’s new audiovisual album. And what else would you expect from the masters of avant-pop experimentalism?
If you’re looking for something akin to the bombastic upbeat dance hits from Animal Collective’s last full-length album, 2016’s Painting With, you won’t find them here. But comparison is futile when you consider the context of the band’s 11th studio album. It was recorded as a live set at an event called Coral Orgy, in collaboration with art-science duo Coral Morphologic in honour of the 2018 International Year of the Reef to raise awareness about the threat to the world’s coral reefs. And in that light, AnCo’s strangely sensual drones are a perfect fit.
The 13-track album evokes what life underwater would probably feel like. It swims smoothly through an experimental stream, drowning listeners in an all-engulfing sensory experience. Opening track Hair Cutter pulls you right into the expansive abyss of the big, bad, blue sea. It’s slow and smooth and glimmery with Avey Tare’s voice muddled and murky, a consistency in the vocals throughout.
Tare is joined by Geologist and Deakin on this album – the absence of Panda Bear and his high-energy beats is evident. There are no real standout hits due to the slow, intertwining nature of the album, yet it seems to pick up a little bit around the ninth track, Hip Sponge, with its higher tempo and breathless chanting of the lyrics “eye on the prize.”
Fans of AnCo’s more upbeat and animated works probably won’t love this album, but it is successful in its experimentation and as an affirmation that they have and always will have something unique to bring to the table. Top Track: Hip Sponge