For those expecting a spiritual successor to 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, Centipede Hz will be a shock; a ramshackle but beautiful mess of ideas and motifs, it seems an deranged musical ‘shoo!’ to all fair-weather Animal Collective aficionados. The instant correlation between this record and pre Merriweather material can be linked to the return of band member Deakin, absent after 2007’s Strawberry Jam; as such, the record is musically a lot more similar to their earlier efforts than the comparatively poppy material on their 2009 LP. This record will receive no Brit nominations, Jessie J won’t be headlining The Pitchfork Music Festival: musical equilibrium is thus restored.
A brutal statement of intent is found on opener ‘Moonjock’. Gabbering, fractured audio snippets give way to abrupt, staccato drums being hit with the purpose of a demented judge’s gavel; a clear-cut ‘we’re back’ declaration. The track that follows this mesmerising introduction is a splintered mess of ideas and motifs played with such tenacity and virtuosity that it seems almost hard to believe.
But then, Animal Collective have never been ones to shy away from experimentation, quite the opposite. The album continues in this challenging manner, genuinely making you work for its artistic merit. ‘Father Time’ is a bizarre affair of sub-Hawaiian grooves, laden with dissonance that, by the chorus, almost seems to render it a different song; however, closer listens reveal a wide range of motifs that permeate the track’s entirety. Similarly, on ‘Applesauce’, in which the lead vocals squeeze as many syllables into a bar as humanly possible, the track fluctuates and progresses into unrecognisable, practically uncharted territory with excellent results.
It is normally at this point where negative aspects should be discussed, but the fact of the matter is that there just doesn’t seem to be that many. It is shouty, messy, incoherent, borderline obnoxious and self-consciously inaccessible but, in this rare band’s case, none of these aspects seem to matter; they meld together and create something that, while challenging, becomes utterly rewarding- a trait that seems difficult to come across in any other band.
Nothing seems too difficult for Animal Collective – and this really is clever stuff. Although hardly one for the drive time hour, this utterly ridiculous, fantastic mess is why its composers remain consistently a cut above when it comes to experimental rock. If Merriweather Post Pavillion was a clean up of Animal Collective’s musical garage, then this is knocking it down.
Released on 4th September 2012 by Domino Recording Company