Recorded with the assistance of an ‘80s-era Tascam tape machine, Cows On Hourglass Pond finds the Animal Collective member retreating into sun-dappled pastoral simplicity; a hazy ode to bucolic road trips through the American backcountry that sees experimental fervour tempered with low-key placidity.
Shifting neo-psychedelic soundscapes are burnished with acoustic-bathed wistfulness; a latent melodic sensibility underpinning the pliable prowess that has shaped much of the LA-based artist’s output to date.
Eclipsing the calypso-tinged ennui of Eucalyptus, Portner excises over-wrought excess in favour of honed baroque pop songcraft; delivering the polished crossover mastery which earned Merriweather Post Pavilion broad acclaim a decade ago. This is a blueprint adhered to on a third solo release steeped in synth-drenched iridescence; a tapestry of kaleidoscopic strands which cohere in an organic synthesis, rarely jarring. Avey Tare’s gleeful vocals shimmer with familiar idiosyncratic charm, befitting equally quirky lyrics suggestive of mid-'70s era Van Dyke Parks, notably on the Norman Rockwell-referencing “Nostalgia Lemonade”. The infectious synth-drenched sheen of “K.C. Yours” and “Saturdays (Again)”, with its slumbering summer beat, crystallise the prevailing serene scope of an album that recalls the tacit accessibility of Enter The Slasher House, at its most lucid.
The seasoned avant-garde maestro applies concision lacking on the previous LP, adopting a meditative pace that enables the concept’s nuances to gently unfold; trading sprawling extravagance for focused definition. In this respect, Portner keenly dabbles in a formula that garnered transgressive traction for Animal Collective, tempering off-kilter wizardry with a degree of terse mainstream appeal, providing structure without inhibiting flow. Tight melodic fare is coupled with less conventional overtones, interlacing with each other in an alchemical fashion that proves both breezy and combustible; a hypnotic tension that continues to reward on repeated playback.