Isn’t It Now? is Animal Collective’s twelfth album, but the first in over a decade that saw all four members recording together in the same room (at the same time). The songs were written in the same sessions as last year’s fantastic Time Skiffs, and there’s very much a feeling that that album took the most cohesive, immediate bunch of songs while IIN? is simply the cast-offs that didn’t really fit in. And that is, surprisingly, no bad thing at all.

Time Skiffs was sharp and focused (by AC standards), while IIN? is a loose, meandering journey through all of the quartet’s varied and contradictory interests. Whether that be the polyphonic chamber-pop of ‘Defeat’, the electro-prog ending of ‘Genie’s Open’ or even the Animal Collective-meets-Randy Newman piano crooning of ‘Stride Rite’, you never know what you’re going to get song to song, but the results are uniformly excellent.

‘Soul Capturer’ is the straightest of the bunch, the closest to their current sound, and it’s got a distinctly psychedelic palette amidst the twangy, Feels-era acoustics. But from the manipulated gurgle at the end of the song, all bets are off. The three tracks under five minutes feel miniscule next to the lengthier explorations around them, but they’re fun detours; a bunch of carefree experiments that work well in this context (unlike the album they made entirely in this style, 2016’s Painting With).

‘Magicians from Baltimore’ is a twisty, winding cut, the heaviest song on the album. There’s a dirge-like quality despite Panda Bear’s sprightly drums, but it still manages to feel slight next to the track that follows: the 22 minute odyssey ‘Defeat’. It’s an impressive behemoth of a song that is full of joy and hope, mostly pensive but occasionally anxious (as when Avey Tare’s starts to shout the album’s title). Does it fit in with the rest of the album? Not really. Does it matter? Not a jot.

There are signposts to the various stages of the band’s career throughout the album: the lazy rumble in ‘Genie’s Open’ reminds of ‘What Would I Want? Sky’, ‘King’s Walk’ of the band’s very early days when a melange of chants could make a whole song and ‘All the Clubs are Broken’ and ‘Broke Zodiac’ of Avey Tare’s steps towards jingle-adjacent bops with his Slasher Flicks.

After spending much of the last decade a bit lost in the wilderness, this group of wildly inventive and ambitious artists seem to found their spark again with these last two releases.