Listening to Animal Collective prepare for their upcoming tour at Drop of Sun Studios in Asheville, North Carolina was a reminder of a somewhat obscured fact: that along with being a set of revolving, semi-feral musical personalities, at base level Animal Collective are a band that plays instruments. While their music encompases a heavily manipulated and often parroted sonic spectrum ranging from the kaleidoscopic to the carnivalesque, underneath the chaos pads and loop stations is a band who knows their fundamentals, both idiosyncratic or otherwise.
This in part is what made these fleeting glimpses of the rehearsals and jam sessions so special: by stripping away the veneer of a studio recording or pretense of a live show, listeners could revel in the raw materials that become a favorite track or musical moment. As long time fans of the band can attest, Animal Collective are known for reworking and perfecting new material on the road – for instance, those seeing Animal Collective on their Strawberry Jam tour in 2007 were graced with early renditions of bangers that went on to become Merriweather Post Pavilion, not officially released until 2009 – and with rumors circulating about potentially two unreleased projects in the works, any new breadcrumb can cause a stir in the online corners where devoted detectives archive new developments for the community at large.
Despite live music experiencing major hiccups in light of Covid-19 health concerns, Animal Collective managed to eke out a few dates in the late-summer/early fall to keep this tradition alive. Blast Radio listeners were given a preview to a slightly jazzier rendition of the yet-to-be-released track “Dragon Slayer'' that could have some hidden Easter eggs of its own. The rehearsal was nestled between brief arrangements that, on the heels of 2020’s Bridge to Quiet, a collection of mined and refined improvisations, gave these moments a heightened significance.
Whether these new grooves will propagate and develop one day into stand alone tracks, or when fans can expect a proper release of “Dragon Slayer” remain open-ended questions. But with a new avenue for the band on Blast Radio paved with seemingly limitless potential, there’s no telling what lies ahead.If you like Animal Collective, check out Teen Daze, Constant Shapes, Drop Of Sun Studios, and The Album Leaf.