I think Animal Collective provide an interesting study into what about music is art. That the collective- specifically the collective- have never felt like a band to me in the same way a Radiohead or a Grizzly Bear have, is mystifying. Instead, Animal Collective feels like an art tribe, widening in its scope and loosening band-leaders, defined both in the sense of what they do beyond themselves- stylistic, illusionary album artwork and hallucinogenic films- and the music itself, constantly about living, breathing things and the dirt beneath their feet, with a focus so strong we think of them as pure unadulterated joy. That, or hipster garbage; your mileage may vary, but even if you think Avey, Panda, Geo and Deakin were made by the internet, and became wish fulfilment for us dorks listening to a copy of their album a month in advance (and so, nothing has changed), there’s nothing internet about their music. Animal Collective is not a band, but an art tribe with a few AKAI synthesizers and a place to upload songs.
That Animal Collective would eventually discover what the internet is- Panda Bear claiming to have discovered Twitter, say no more- was a dangerous idea to play with; it suggested, to my idiot mind, a bunch of woodlanders discovering and wanting to burn the artificial evil. Olde rituals aside, though, Animal Collective have now written a song about songs- “Monkey Riches,” an actualisation of Animal Collective as a ‘band’, of sorts- but its execution is strangely quite perfect: “makes me wonder how I even wrote this song / does this not occur to almost everyone?” Avey Tare sings- more like, postulates- as if reaching above the earthy album he’s writing. But never for a second does it feel like Avey Tare is directing his band somewhere more
, beyond what Animal Collective have always been.
And so if that little bit of realisation is a first for Animal Collective, then Centipede HZ
seems to say these art tribe desires (“oooooohs,” if you like) are as much about what we tune into as anything else. Inspired by skipping through radio transmissions, the album finds its joy in the bizarreness of what we listen to, and how much it flows and makes sense in its own, illogical way. “Moonjock,” as always, is the perfect Animal Collective opener- it starts at one frequency and ends at another, moving from its muffled radio declaration into a pop song that is very much in the mix: loud and abrasive, “Moonjock” eventually cuts through its swampy percussive bent to become gang vocals and nostalgia: “we ran it again and we ran it again and we ran it out / ran it out.” What follows in “Today’s Supernatural” is the bizarre flow, an Animal Collective transmitting on a different frequency but still, always, led by feeling. Why else would Avey roll his tongue like his own personal instrument?
And my first thought of this album cut through the new, conceptual Animal Collective, which I came to admire; my thought was just don’t ever change, guys; I heard “Rosie Oh” like I’d hear anything on Feels
or Merriweather Post Pavillion
; I didn’t notice the busy, muffled atmosphere the album was presenting in secret. That is the conversation we’re having about Centipede HZ
, of course; that Animal Collective have constructed these songs as a sort of counterpoint to their most successful album, that while “My Girls” or “Brothersport” lived in the wide, damp open, these are songs filled to the brim with what the band can find. People blame, bizarrely, Deakin, for creating an album that sounds claustrophobic, while on his own song he crafts a breezy, spaced-out jam sequenced to give Centipede HZ
its breathing space: “Wide Eyed” echoes off the walls and provides big, rollicking riffs as the template for all else. It seems impossible, when this album unravels, to reject Animal Collective for collapsing in on themselves. I could talk about there being less Panda, of course, or no beautiful lull- I don’t need another “Banshee Beat” when I already have “Banshee Beat”- but they’re secondary concerns when this album envelopes like it does. This album is big and bolstered, exhilarating rather than inaccessible, and certainly living for every moment.
is a reaffirmation. It reminds us that Animal Collective plays interactive, now and forever. They named an album after their favourite music venue, and now after dirt and video games. They were our seasonal band, as far as the endless arguments over whether we listened to them in summer or winter. I myself demanded that Animal Collective created cyclical music, the type that’s always there for you when you want it to be. And then they went and streamed Centipede HZ
as a live experience, one that happened for you at 10pm and for me at 4am. We waited through Geologist’s playlist of Spanish music and Pink Floyd to get it, and I remember conversations with fellow Sputnik staffers having us give up on our favourite band before we even heard what they had to offer. By the time Centipede HZ
was playing to us, I was delirious for it: “Moonjock” was bolstered beyond just being the fast and loose track it is. “Wide Eyed” was an exclamation and shocking reveal. And I thought “New Town Burnout” was Panda Bear gone hip-hop. With Centipede HZ
, things like textures and tight constructions are like musical factors that simply complement the huge fu
cking experience we all had. I’m not going to remember that I streamed it on the internet where people make jokes about Animal Collective. I’m just going to remember how it felt. For me, it felt perfect, and it reminded me of why I use stupid, stupid words like “art tribe”: because Animal Collective look for the sensory in everything.