Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Animal Collective stretches musical legs

Sometimes it’s best to describe an album by listing what it’s
not. In the case of Animal Collective’s Centipede
the experience is not tangible, it’s not aromatic, nor does it have a
taste. But the last two senses, sight and sound, are wholly accounted for.

The band has returned to their ODDSAC philosophy of producing an album that simultaneously stimulates visual and
audible senses, creating video landscapes meant to represent
what one would see if he listened to the album with closed eyes. And while it’s
impossible to say what everyone sees when they listen to the album, the
abstract visuals certainly seem to accurately represent one’s dreaming state. Grainy
geometric designs fade in and out with primitive-quality filming of caves,
lava, children holding balloons and a list of scenes to span the realm of psychedelia.

This is what Animal Collective achieves in Centipede Hz and, as a matter of fact,
all their albums to date – a hyper-sensory trip into worlds of sound you didn’t
know existed. With Animal Collective, as your native guides into the foreign
landscape which feels at times like a futuristic jungle on an alien planet,
you won’t go astray. But don’t let their words be your guide: They carry a
strong accent bordering not ironically on animalistic. It’s safe to say this album could provide some of the most misheard lyrics in history. That’s
fine, though, because like the video accompaniment, the vocals provide
something of an extra stimulus, an extra instrument, creating melodies and
harmonies to hang onto as they soar over thickly layered, heavily rhythmic


As rhythmic as the tracks are, Centipede Hz saw the
return of guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Deakin, aka Josh Dibb, who was
absent for the acclaimed Merriweather
Post Pavillion
. His influence doesn’t sound much like a guitar – too many effects – but it sure feels like one. Although it is difficult at times to distinguish
his influence from the pool of sounds, it plays a heavy role in capturing the
listener’s attention from the outset, lending a near-rock flavor to the
opening track, “Moonjock.”

Another aspect that holds the tracks together is their use
of continuous transitions that hold a glitchy, static-laden theme throughout
the album, like changing radio frequencies to listen to the same station. This
allows them to carry heavy chord patterns from the aforementioned “Moonjock”
into a carnival-esque experiment in “Today’s Supernatural” and from a
laid-back “Rosie Oh” into the catchy “Applesauce.” There are indeed brief
moments of quiet, but hardly ever are there bits of silence. And if there were,
it would only break the hypnosis. While the instrumentals afford them track-by-track
transitions, it’s the hypnotic trance that allows them to continue exploring
their planet of sound.

At some point, the tour’s soundscape
moves from alien jungle to swamp, and while it’s difficult to say when the
transition begins, it is wholly evident just past the album’s halfway mark in “Father
Time.” This is where the previously thick songs thin out a bit and dense
synth patterns succumb to grimy, low-frequency bubbles. The vocal effect, too, sounds like an underwater serenade,
and you can almost taste the airy melody.

There isn’t any perfect way to sort out the album’s high and low points, and that, in part, is what makes it great. Animal Collective has produced a work that is more than the sum of its parts and satisfies more senses than most records can even touch.

4 out of 5 stars

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