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Animal Collective - Centipede Hz

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Artist: Animal Collective

Album: Centipede Hz

Label: Domino

Review date: Sep. 4, 2012

Animal Collective’s 10th album, Centipede Hz falls about as far from 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion as possible, replacing that beloved record’s clean, weightless anthemry with messy, abrasive, static-fuzzed sonics. It is shot through with radio references, both in the voices that filter through cuts like “Moonjock” and “Monkey Riches” and in the between-the-stations indefiniteness that veils even the most emphatic tracks. Recorded more or less live, with Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin all taking part (Deakin sat out Merriweather Post Pavilion), the album has a ceaseless busy-ness. “Today’s Supernatural,” the single, is nearly impenetrable, a frantic, antic fugue-state of video game and carnival sounds that coalesces only in the call to “let-let-let-let-let-let go.” And yet, at its best, in the closing “Amanita,” for instance, Centipede Hz conjures absolute joy.

The fixation on radio runs all through the album, from its lyrics to its sound quality to the way it was introduced to fans. Centipede Hz was made available before its release date as a stream at Animal Collective’s online radio station, after a series of mixes intended to give the album context. Lots of listeners, then, heard these songs first via the indifferent sound of computer speakers, either through streams or the early video for “Today’s Supernatural.” So, maybe it doesn’t matter that the sound is both overcrowded and penned in, a doodle pad of electronic and organic sounds filled in and overlayed right to the edges. Still, while listening to “Moonjock” and sifting through several layers of percussion and synthesizer, you have to feel around for the song itself. The payoff, that oddball yet triumphant chorus so typical of Animal Collective, feels crabbed and constrained, hemmed in by extraneous forces.

The lyrics are hard to hear, but for a band almost synonymous with euphoria, they seem unusually downbeat and existential. “Applesauce,” on its surface another of Animal Collective’s jump-out-of-your-skin joy rants, concerns the pleasures of eating fruit, a child-like sensual pleasure that would fit right into Sung Tongs. Yet a shadow falls, a chill creeps in even here, with the lyric, “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.” The travelling songs “Moonjock” and “Rosie Oh” are about loneliness more than a sense of adventure. The best pleasures are more adult ones – a stable relationship and possibly a child in Deakin’s “Wide Eyed,” the relief of coming home in “New Town Burnout.”

Animal Collective’s music hasn’t been this hard to love since 2003’s Hear Comes the Indian, when the band was known more for nebulous dissonance than ecstatic harmonies. It takes time to acclimate to the album’s frenetic fog. In that sense, Centipede Hz is both a return to and rejection of form.

By Jennifer Kelly

Other Reviews of Animal Collective

Here Comes the Indian

Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished/Danse Manatee

Sung Tongs




Strawberry Jam

Water Curses

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Fall Be Kind

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