The word on the street is that Animal Collective’s ninth studio album – yes, ninth – is a red-blooded response to the sunshine and puppy dogs of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Which is true in regards to its approach (bashed instruments rather than stacked samples) and overall vibe (wild and wooly), but it’s not like the group’s core quartet is back to baking batches of incoherent noise rock. To understand where they’re coming from this time around, it helps to first cue up the podcasts that Animal Collective leaked in the weeks leading up to Centipede Hz‘s release; namely Geologist’s set, which is based on an elaborate mix he made for producer Ben Allen before Animal Collective hit the studio.
“We put together a list of songs that either encompassed the overall sound and vibe, or just had specific things we liked, such as drums sounds, or vocal effects,” Geologist wrote in his Mixcloud notes. “For the final show of AC Radio we thought it’d be cool to play this inspirational mix and the album back to back.”
Sure enough, Animal Collective’s leading loop surgeon offers more than a few clues about the background of what’s initially a very bewildering listen, from Barrett-era Pink Floyd and latter day Portishead to slivers of psych, rarified garage rock and manic world music. None of which are immediately apparent on the first or 50th spin. Instead, Centipede Hz unfolds like a series of scrambled radio transmissions, right down to the tortured transitions between each track. It’s as if the band’s tapping into a broadcast from the great beyond, with little regard for the amphitheater-ready hooks that made Merriweather Post Pavilion such a joy. Where that album’s leadoff single (“My Girls”) flooded the endorphin levels of anyone within earshot, this one is prefaced by the stuttering rhythms and ravenous “let, let, let, let, let, let GO!” choruses of “Today’s Supernatural.” Listen to any of these songs loud enough and you’ll be forced to step back a few feet; it’s that harsh and heavy, from the trash compactor intro of “Moonjock” to the skittish synths of “Wide Eyed,” the first song to feature lead vocals from the group’s guitarist, Deakin.
In conclusion, do not take the brown acid at your next Animal Collective show. Your synapses will thank you.