Animal Collective, The Roundhouse, London
Monday 05 November 2012
"For us it's not always about just writing a good song" Animal Collective's vocalist Avey Tare once maintained. "We want to play with your ears in terms of colours and space with sound."
Well, their stage looks playful, framed as it is with giant white teeth that light up in various bright colours. They are something to fix the attention on as the four anonymous figures indulge in yet another overcooked dollop of humourless freak folkery from their latest sonic bombardment, Centipede Hz.
The gnashes also make you want to see the dentist. Something that would be marginally more preferable than enduring some of the quartet's more arduous neo-psychedelic workouts and Tare's droning, impenetrable lyrics on bleep-laden dirges such as "Wide Eyed", "Today's Supernatural" and "Applesauce", where we're informed "When I was young I thought fruit was an infinite thing/ I'd be sad to wake up and find all of my cherries are charred or they're rotted to ruin." Yeah, I hear you: fruit rots, man.
While fellow American experimentalists MGMT have soared magnificently (Oracular Spectaculer) before crashing down to terra firma (Congratulations) in the space of two albums, Animal Collective have industriously stayed at the crease, Geoffrey Boycott-like, releasing an eye-popping nine albums in 15 years.
The Baltimore noodlers had been steadily gaining acclaim on each of their electronic excursions before hitting critical and commercial pay-dirt with their eighth record, 2009's relatively tranquil, sample-laden Merriweather Post Pavilion. An album which was wildly praised in one quarter as "one of the landmark American albums of the century so far". Well, we could definitely have done with more of the accessible tracks from Merriweather here and the album provides the only highlights, most notably "Lion in a Coma" the dizzying, Underworld-like "Brother Sport" and the giddy "My Girls".
The four (sometimes two or even three)-piece, made up of Tare and sampler-and-synth maestros Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist, appear to be wilfully alienating their newly won audience with an over-reliance on tracks from Centipede Hz, a record that's uncompromisingly jarring, avant-garde and loopy. Which is not always the tonic on a Sunday night.
This admirably always evolving act largely ignore their "older" material, save for "Peacebone" from 2007's Strawberry Jam and "Cobwebs" from Water Curses (from 2008, so not exactly doddery). You sense everybody here would be content with a simple run through Merriweather. However, Tare and co opt for "playing" with our ears instead. Not a minute too soon, mercifully, the playing ends.
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