Animal Collective's Unsolved Mysteries

Listen to Animal Collective on Rhapsody and/or MySpace...

By: Dennis Cook

Animal Collective
My 10-month-old is splashing so hard in his wading pool that water has soaked my shorts and flattened my hair. A rubber duck bobs on the infant waves with a look of genuine concern as my boy cackles and spits like Gary Oldman in The Professional. What's set the little fella off? Animal Collective. From a tiny boombox Strawberry Jam, the wildly exuberant quartet's new album [coming out September 11 on Domino Records], whirrs and croons like a windup robot trying to start a sock hop. Seven albums on, Animal Collective creates music that delights the very young and their papas alike.

Just then, my 50-something neighbor comes up the stairs and inquires, "What the hell are you listening to?" His tone and shriveled prune expression make it clear he's not digging AC's mutant pop – a shining hybrid culled from the same silver mine that gave us Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's score to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, '70s Brian Eno, High Llamas, Tiny Tim and Joe Meek, though beaten into sharply unique shapes by Avey Tare (Dave Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Geologist (Brian Weitz) and Deakin (Josh Dibb). Formed in Baltimore County, Maryland, this freak-rock quartet has a tendency to split folks down the middle. Love it or hate it, there's always a reaction, and that's to their credit. Since 2000 they've made deliciously singular albums, both collectively and on their own, making a splash in the music press and alternative listener circles with strange delights like 2004's Sung Tongs and recent solo efforts like Panda Bear's fab Person Pitch and Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan's Pullhair Rubeye.

Strawberry Jam is their most forthrightly engaging set yet – the ideal soundtrack to a summer full of drugs and water pistol fights, sloppy kisses and Slip 'n Slides. We were lucky enough to snag one of the Collective for a few minutes of brain picking just before they set out on their national tour.

Josh Dibb
Name: Josh Dibb (aka Deakin)
Instruments Played: guitar, voice, electronics
Favorite sandwich: avocado, cheese, tomato, sprouts, lettuce and fresh ground pepper
Astrological sign: Capricorn
Spirit animal: I've never thought of myself as an animal spirit kind of dude, but I had a really heavy dream once with a white owl that I turned into a white wolf. And I know those are both really "typical" spirit animals but it really was heavy and significant and sort of happened at a very crux point in my life.

JamBase: That's easily the most disturbing picture of strawberry jam I've ever seen on the cover of your new album. There's something vaguely genital or H.R. Giger about it. I wouldn't put it on my toast! So, how'd you come to this picture and title for the record?

Josh Dibb: The title came about while we were on tour in the summer of 2006. We were on a flight from Moscow to Athens and Noah [Panda Bear] was eating his breakfast. He opened up a package of strawberry jam and looked at it and said that the way that it looked was how he wanted the record to sound - simultaneously synthetic, futuristic but from an organic natural place. We talk about sound in visual terms a lot, so this made a lot of sense to all of us. Dave [Avey Tare] was the one that made the artwork that is on the packaging. In many ways it differs a lot from the clean synthetic image that Noah originally was inspired by, but that makes a lot of sense to me. The art represents a lot of artistic ideas that Dave has been working with for awhile in terms of colors and light. In certain ways that and the artwork for the "Peacebone" single [also by Dave] are some of my favorite AC album art to date.

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