Psychedelic avant-poppers Animal Collective have released “FloriDada,” the first taste of their 10th studio album, Painting With, due Feburary 19, 2016. The giddy, harmony-soaked, “Wipeout”-borrowing four-minute single is the opening track of a record the band tells Rolling Stone was intended to be “minimal,” made of “short blasts” and not soaked in the reverb the band had built their woozy sound on.
“Everything seems drenched in reverb these days, and is so distant,” David “Avey Tare” Portner tells Rolling Stone. “In a way, it was a reaction to that.”
“We talked about no ambient [passages],” says Brian “Geologist” Weitz. “Even [2009’s] Merriweather Post Pavillion, people were saying was our poppiest record up to that point, but there still were like long, drawn-out passages of drone. With this one we were just like in and out. No long buildups to get to it, no long outros. We talked about, like, our Ramones record.”
Painting With was recorded in EastWest studios in Los Angeles with the Merriweather Post Pavillion lineup of Portner, Weitz and Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox. It features guest appearances from the Velvet Underground’s John Cale and vein-popping minimalist saxophonist Colin Stetson. Its color palate is provided by modular synths and an array of percussion instruments borrowed from the collection of studio drummer Emil Richards.
“All weirdo handmade stuff,” Weitz explains. “The guys would deliver it who worked at the warehouse, they’d be like, This was used in Planet of the Apes. These metal rods that make these singing tones … they’re like ‘These are from the Poltergeist soundtrack.'”
The record follows longest gap between albums in the band’s 15-year history, with the individual band members using the time to focus on other projects. Stressed-out and frequently sick by end of the Centipede Hz tour, Portner retreated into the quicker-and-easier process of his art-punk trio Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks. Last year Lennox released his fifth solo album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, to the usual sea of acclaim. Weitz had a daughter and spent the first half of 2014 as a stay-at-home dad.
Without having played live since 2013, the band created the album’s songs without hearing them through the smushy sound of stage performance, nor the ability to expand with amorphous intro and outro passages. In turn, songs like “FloriDada” are free of the soupy, woozy, reverb-heavy sound that can currently can be heard everywhere — from the narcotic R&B of the Weeknd to the Lynchian pop of Lana del Ray to and the summertime glow of alt-leaning bands like Echosmith. Foster the People even scored a Number Three pop hit with the AnCo-indebted “Pumped Up Kicks”
Says Weitz: “My mom made the comment — not in [a] critical way, ‘These guys were on Ellen! And they sounded just like you! You could be on Ellen!'”
The band laughs, but Painting With may have more pop potential than any record in their career.
“Even back to like [2007’s] Strawberry Jam, we’ve wanted to do a record that was a little more close-up, direct, Beatles-y style record,” says Portner.
“Where you can hear everything,” adds Weitz.
“It didn’t really make sense with the songs until now,” says Portner. “And maybe just ’cause we actually wrote them to be that way.”