Animal Collective, Tangerine Reef
Since Animal Collective broke through with the experimental psych-pop brilliance of their 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Baltimore band’s overflowing melting pots of inventive musical ideas have continued to divide opinion. It’s hard, though, to see who could take their side with Tangerine Reef.
Apparently “Coral Porn” was a working title for this audio-visual album made as a result of a live art collaboration between the band and videographers Coral Morphologic, “celebrating the cosmic synchronicity of sex on the reef”. Well, full marks for originality.
As an environmental art project raising awareness of endangered coral (it commemorates the 2018 International Year of the Reef), it is laudable. As a listening experience, it is impenetrable. Shifting shapelessly from one tune-deprived track into the next, the album lacks the band’s quirky pop-minded Panda Bear.
Tangerine Reef is described as a “visual tone poem”, which goes some way towards explaining the droning gurgled vocals sounding like spoken word being read underwater. Through experimental sound sculptures of disorienting free-flowing tempos, wildly contrasting pitches and timbres, Tangerine Reef gives a musical voice to these alien coral creatures and their aquatic world. If only it were a more mellifluous voice.
Strip away the warped vocals and heavy reverb to reveal occasional glimmers of beauty and unnerving dissonance, and it could be a film soundtrack – part horror, part nature documentary. But the most beautiful thing about this is by far the luminous fluorescence of the swaying coral creatures of the accompanying film.