Less than a year since Animal Collective’s Centipede Hz saw them revert from the comparative poppiness of Merriweather Post Pavilion, the band continues futher down their glitchy, unsettled rabbit hole.
Their new remix EP, Monkey Been To Burntown, is a resolutely challenging one, featuring the already clanging, restless psychedlics of their tracks ‘Monkey Riches’ and ‘New Town Burnout’ twisted and turned inside out, back to front and firmly out of the ordinary. And they were pretty extraordinary to begin with.
Including three separate remixes of ‘Monkey Riches’ re-imagined by Gang Gang Dance’s Brian DeGraw, Traxman and Teengirl Fantasy, and one of ‘New Town Burnout’ by Shabazz Palaces, things go from the relatively straightforward to the totally reinvented; the more whimsical fare seen on the originals largely taking a more sinister, beat-driven turn. As such, the EP by no means makes for a pleasant listen - messy and dark, it feels like less of a record and more like a statement of their intent to avoid the mainstream like the plague.
The remixes of ‘Monkey Riches’ vary enormously, in parts unrecognisable and in others almost indistinguishable from the original. DeGraw’s remix plays it somewhat safer than the other pair, with a long, atmospheric intro dropping into a beat laden with fluttering, pulsating fills. The track remains in line with both Gang Gang Dance and Animal Collective, remaining faithful to the original in that Avey Tare’s vocal performance, in parts, remains intact. For those further expecting anything ‘intact’ about the remixes on this EP, the fun stops there. The other two ‘Monkey Riches’ on here are pieces of work in themselves with a couple Animal Collective samples thrown in for good measure. Not that this is a necessarily a bad thing, the pulsating, driving rhythms of Traxman’s remix are excellent; the syncopation working nicely with a vocal sample used with equally percussive purpose.
The stand out on this EP, however, is the version of ‘New Town Burnout’. Hugely imaginative and sinister, Shabazz Palaces deconstruct the track into its composite parts, embellishing the minor aspects of its predecessor and completely discarding the major ones. The result is a nightmarish and ominous mix of creeping bass lines, stabbing keys and vocals that lurk menacingly at the back of the mix; this remix merely nods to the original, doing so in a way that renders it both refreshingly apart and eerily similar to it. Very, very accomplished stuff.
However, as a whole the EP doesn’t hit the mark. Not only is the only link between the tracks that they are vaguely related to Animal Collective, but within the tracks themselves there are often many ideas out of context with one another. As such, the EP doesn’t really work as a cohesive whole and is not overly enjoyable as a result. This is probably the ideal scenario for this enduringly innovative band; the more they challenge their fanbase, the more hardcore and niche it becomes, the less fair-weather, casual ones they are burdened with. Thus the circle of life is complete.
6Jon Clark's Score