Animal Collective’s new album Painting With is a triumph. For those familiar with the group, Painting With will come across as a more urban feeling version of the band’s classic effort Merriweather Post Pavilion (a more pastoral affair). Part of the reason for this distinction between urban and pastoral comes with the subject matter of the respective albums. For instance, Merriweather Post Pavilion takes it’s name form an outdoor concert venue in Maryland. The album is about being outside with friends and the interrelationship of egos in nature. Painting With, on the other hand, is concerned with the more synthetic project of art, for example painting. The tour that Animal Collective is undergoing now boasts an incredible set design in which the stage and musicians are constructed to resemble a painting in the modernist style. It is a visually stunning event as well as an auditory one.
What becomes of interest in Painting With is the relationship of art objects (synthetic things) to viewers. Indeed, it seems these synthetic things have a natural relationship to the viewer as well despite being objects of construction. It follows that synthetic objects like art have a real place in the natural ecosystem despite being removed from it and can consequently effect the environment external to it. That’s why the album is called Painting With, because the painting is painting with the viewer reminiscent of the ideas of John Dewey’s Art as Experience.
The album is very much concerned with the ecosystem. References to dinosaurs evoke a fear of extinction and our own-shared experience fading into the past. There is also reference to episodic experience felt in serial formats like television and pop music. “Recycling” closes the album, pleading with the viewer to do all that can be done to preserve this experience. For Animal Collective it seems as though art as an aesthetic object can be employed to preserve the greater object it is encompassed in, nature. Have an aesthetic experience with the object today either on Vinyl or CD at Bedrock. We also encourage you to experience Animal Collective live. Preserve the experience!