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Animal Collective - Centipede Hz

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Fair-weather fans of Merriweather Post Pavilion beware: From the very opening of Centipede Hz, Animal Collective are letting you are all know that this isn’t going to be a repeat of the highly successful outing of 2009. The album commences with harsh industrial beats, which hammer the listener metaphorically over the head. Indeed, there are few moments on the album where one can just slip into a lull, and let the soundscapes wash over.

Centipede Hz it is the sound of being trapped in a carnival after dark, being pursued by a deranged clown – on LSD. It’s quite fitting, and probably no coincidence, that Avey Tare (who wrote the lion’s share of the album) is dressed up as a psychotic clown in the film clip of lead single: Today’s Supernatural.

David Portner (AKA Avey Tare) has previously stated that Animal Collective like to play live like a DJ: meshing the songs together in a continuous set. In this respect the album is no different. The songs are linked together by radio noise and samples, giving the album the cohesiveness it may otherwise be lacking in. In fact, Avey Tare’s older brother was a radio DJ in Baltimore when he was growing up. The sound effects and jingles they used between songs was a major influence on the sampled and heavily manipulated sounds between tracks on this album.

This could possibly be the only thing this album has in common with a DJ set, however. Whereas Merriweather Post Pavilion was full of electronics and sampling, Centipede Hz is a return to their roots somewhat, with a much more organic and ‘live sound’ to it. I say ‘live sound’ in inverted commas, as many of the instruments used were played by the band, and then sampled later on.

This album marks the return of Josh ‘Deakin’ Dibb who sat out the recording sessions and touring for Merriweather. He also contributes his first lead vocals on Wide-Eyed. Noah ‘Panda Bear’ Lennox only contributes two songs to Centipede Hz: Rosie Oh and New Town Burnout. However, they are interspersed nicely, providing a nice juxtaposition to all of the chaos.

The denseness and hyperactivity of FM radio is mirrored by that of the songs which make up the album. If Animal Collective has succeeded on one thing it’s not that they have made an album that’s easy to digest or to listen to, but that the general tone of the album is consistent, if not in themes, then in general feeling. In the end, despite the more aggressive and the unrelenting nature of this album, amazingly it all manages to sound, well, like Animal Collective. To pull that off is in itself a major feat.

Those who expected more of the same of Animal Collective are probably missing the point. They also probably shouldn’t expect to hear too much of Centipede Hz when Animal Collective tour in early 2013. The band has always had a reputation for always pushing forward and never looking back. They will often improvise and try and out new material which will end up appearing on the next album.

Reviewing any Animal Collective album is a monumental task, and one might say an exercise in futility. Criticizing the impenetrable wall of sonics and obscure lyricism is a moot point. After all: Animal Collective aren’t attempting to be crowd pleasers. Whilst I didn’t enjoy it as much as Merriweather Post Pavilion or Strawberry Jam, it was refreshing to hear something from a completely different plane.

7/10 stars

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