High-powered and experimental, Animal Collective’s stylistic evolution never stops. Even after over 10 years, the band continues to spark new sounds and pioneer new methods of making noise. Their dedication is inspiring.
A lot of this new album Centipede Hz takes a step forward conceptually and musically right off the bat, and the detail-oriented work is easy to hear in leader songs “Moonjock” and “Today’s Supernatural.” The latter of these two songs is totally rocking, and perhaps the album’s strongest piece early on. Its spitting vocals and suitcase-full-of-sounds approach is fun to listen to — especially out loud — and a total treat before the album flows and slows into “Rosie Oh” next.
This is all we’ve heard since the band’s critically acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion back in 2009, so naturally, there was a lot of pressure riding on the artistic success. Maybe the reinsertion of band member Deakin, who was not present for Merriweather, was what brought Animal Collective to a more embellished method in recent work.
Animal Collective’s masterful sound can be discerned very quickly in contrast to other bands, staying true to their experimental-psychedelic sound in Centipede Hz just as they did with seven prior albums. The vocals are still layered and echoed throughout, and around every corner is a new mixture of beats and cymbal crashes that hasn’t been tried before.
What comes as a setback of this experimental sound is that it’s hard to seek depth between the cymbal infusions and strange beats. There’s inspiration in the lyrics but at times, it can be difficult to decipher. The sound is thick and full of innovation but it sometimes covers up whatever message Animal Collective was trying to send.
Remember when the Beatles went through their signature psychedelic phase? That’s what this album (and Animal Collective in general) sounds like all the time. Especially in “Father Time,” the band is vintage-sounding and almost classic with their mixing of the song, putting together an admirable tribute to bands that paved the way for such feats as the ones they conquer today. Whether intentional or coincidental, the song totally sails.
At times, Centipede Hz becomes a bit self-indulgent. The lengthy tracks are extremely expressive but laced with layer after layer of reverberation and funked-out riffs with garbage-can beats and electronic distillations. It’s a lot to handle at once, so when it’s good, it’s mesmerizing, but when it’s bad, it’s impossibly troubling. There’s no getting into Animal Collective at this point for an outsider. From here on out, it seems new material is dedicated to longterm folks and not fair-weather fans. The reception here will definitely be mixed.
We hear relief from this compression when “New Town Burnout” delights with a slower tone, which is more harmonious but not less quiet and more sultry but not less complicated. It quickly dissolves back into the clashy routine with “Monkey Riches” immediately after, though, and the pattern is reverted to the controlled chaos that is Centipede Hz. Though tumultuous in parts, the album as a whole has got the entertainment value we were looking for, and this is enough to leave a music lover happy.