Misty Analog Memories
Centipede Hz —Animal Collective's feverishly anticipated to 2009's ecstatically-praised Merriweather Post Pavilion— begins with a piece of sunkissed childhood nostalgia, in which Dave 'Avey Tare' Portner recounts (in his own oblique way) a summer trip South down the Atlantic Coast "in a blue camino," with the memories seamlessly interwoven with the songs that soundtracked the trips. "No better way to remind me of sun-heated seats than 'Love Me Do' was," Portner wails, and the memories are not just about the song, but the radio, or his walkman (and its dying batteries), and his stash of tapes. This is memory interwoven with music, midwifed by archaic, analog technology; a study of the personal and the technological.
Animal Collective's electro-psychedelic monkeyshines —all fried circuitry, tribal percussion, massed celebratory spirit, and impish inquisitiveness— have long been seen as retreats into their boyish love of childhood; their beloved 2004 LP Sung Tongs, in particular, singled out for tapping into that literary spirit —think: Lewis Carroll or Maurice Sendak— or the child's flights into imagination.
Yet "Moonjock," the Portner-narrated the opener on the band's 10th album, hints not just at memory, or music, but at an album-long exploration of technology. Though the songs find Portner, Noah 'Panda Bear' Lennox, and even Josh Dibb (who makes a rare vocal appearance on "Wide Eyed") desperate to maintain a connection with nature (there's escapes to caves and everglades, in "Pulleys" and "Rosie Oh," and a symbolic study of fruit with the agriculturally/organically-minded "Applesauce"), there's a contrary current of wanting to merge with technology, a near-Cronenbergian sentiment embodied in the title's match of insect and frequency.
The Merry 'Merriweather' Successor
This, of course, makes complete sense: Animal Collective have been one of the chief proponents in 'humanizing' electronic sounds, in taking blips and beats and frequencies away from the retrofuturist realm and back towards something more earthy and tribal; turning instruments of precision into sounds shaggy, fuzzy, warm, dirty.
And Centipede Hz certainly sounds far shaggier —in individual elements, compositional structure, and longplaying whole— than Merriweather Post Pavilion, an album of such staggering critical acclaim and vast influence that it instantly etched Animal Collective into the alternative canon. There's no way to go but down, from there, and Animal Collective handle the comedown with a kind of blithe grace, going about their business as if the indie world isn't hanging on this album's every note.
Though it feels like a break from Merriweather Post Pavilion, Centipede Hz has plenty in common with 2005's Feels and 2007's Strawberry Jam; especially in the hoarse, raw, post-break-up screeches of Portner, who lets his wail loose in a way it never was on Merriweather Post Pavilion. The fact that it swings back towards the bands willfully-experimental history will surely be maddening, and confronting, for some of the copious converts who came on board last time out. Centipede Hz is due to be a divisive disc for listeners, but that's no critique; instead, it's in keeping with Animal Collective's longstanding mission to keep things weird, wide-eyed, bro-tastic, and occasionally baffling.
Record Label: Domino
Release Date: September 4, 2012