Animal Collective: Centipede Hz
- When I heard the advance single Today's Supernatural with it's ridiculously speeding percussion, strong melodiousness and Avey Tare's crazily altered voice leading the oddity that is Animal Collective on this wild ride, I was pretty excited for their new album, Centipede Hz. When I did hear that record and realised every single track was rushing at me with the same furious intensity, I started to sweat a bit. Whether it was in anticipation of a rollicking good time, or because I was standing in the path of an an oncoming freight-train, I'm still not sure. When Animal Collective hit us up with 2009's Merriweather Post Pavillion its big pop sensations - like My Girls - could have got a lot of backs up amongst the traditional Animal Collective fandom. It didn't because you could feel Avey Tare's overwhelming positivity just flooding out. He wasn't going to let anybody miss out on all that happiness. What came after it, a 'visual album' called Oddsac leapt away back into sounds as experimental as Animal Collective had ever messed with. There was also Avey Tare's solo record, Down There, not as full of weird, but stemming from a dark turn in Avey's personal life, that record was also a pretty bracing experience. So, where's Centipede Hz at? Well, whether intentionally or not the band have made something extraordinarily dense: mainlining the on-rushing rhythm and melodic noise and the stream of highly processed vocals. You'll get just the idea from Centipede Hz's opener Moonjock, with its crunchy samples and the endlessly repeated 'Then your're running again / And you're running again', yelled merrily, almost psychotically. Funnily enough the lyrics are actually quite easy to understand. Also, even with the usual dose of trippily psychedelic word painting, there's some cohesive themes that run through Centipede Hz. I found myself following those, almost taking refuge in them against the noisy onslaught. There's tons of relationship angst: that's what's so ma-a-a-ad on Today's Supernatural. Ducking and weaving through this constant distress is Avey, on a mission, a search for what he calls home. For him it's a fabled source of safety and comfort that lives as much inside another person as anywhere else: 'You had opened up the doors / And made a place where I could sit inside' he sings on Rosie Oh. It's a constant struggle and the weariness is palpable in the line 'When I Make It x3 / Back Home' on New Town Burnout. The yearning for peace is never fulfilled - that unstoppable energy returning, thrumming with all the feverishness Avey's generating. Centipede Hz never seems to come to a rest, an unsettling experience, finally. In its constant tail-chasing it's neither as confidently poppy or arty as the high points of Animal Collective's repertoire. It's still Animal Collective, though, and whatever they're going through they produce something ten times more interesting than your average rock band. Maybe there is some hidden catharsis in all of this, that I can't find from only a few listens. Maybe, but right now Centipede Hz seems more like a test of endurance than an epiphany. I'll make the effort though, perservering with them through a difficult time, because, in the end, Animal Collective are worth it.
- Chris Cobcroft.