The Animal Collective are full tilt in the basement of the Manchester academy. The environment’s akin to staring into the mothership’s fireplace whilst being sera-nastied by konono no.1, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Wilson through one titanic amp. Relentless and disorientating waves of music concrete, delay, and melodically infused techno, blast from the New York based three piece’s sparse stage set-up.
This is the second time I have seen the band play live, and what struck me about this gig was the band’s bold commitment to the serene portion of their repertoire, despite a crowd baying for the sparks emitted from their up tempo creations. Drawn out for teens of minutes, the half paced delay-laden lagoons of sound displayed a fearless mastery of the live environment, and loyalty to the full chaotic range of their artistic expression. Wholly inspiring, but tough on the legs and lower back when drink has been taken. On face value it was as if they realised that the new record has potential to cross over into this country’s saccharine top 40 and thus decided to scare all mainstream revellers off by parading the aural equivalent of a heroin induced Santa. However, for all of the Animal Collective’s sonic experimentalism and impeccable cool, they are not elitist. The group are simply following the nimble impulses of their union and this is where the three currently converge, down is evidently their new up.
This shift is also evident on their new album (Merriweather Post Pavilion) where the primal melodic screams and shouts of Avey Tare (David Portner) are absent. The vocals instead have been folded in with Panda Bear’s (Noah Lennox), creating near division-less blasts of harmony. This was used to great effect at the Manchester gig on the tracks ‘Also Frightened’ and ‘Brother Sport’.
The Animal Collective are drawing from a substantial pool in 2009, nine full length albums, three EP’s, plus solo and side projects, saw them in a position to even omit the new album’s opening track from the set list. ‘In Flowers’, is a masterly psychedelic homage to field bound euphoria. Musically it bridges two great periods of hedonism in the 20th Century, infusing the melodic lines and psychotropic sensibilities of late 60s California, with the sweaty synth arpeggios, sparkling pianos and dirty trainers of the rave era. Never one to conform to people’s expectations the band did however have the good sense to bestow upon the crowd, Panda Bear’s ‘My Girls’, with it’s glorious sonic inheritance owed to Frankie Knuckles.
So, once again and as if by magic the Animal Collective’s new album (Merriweather post pavilion) and current run of live shows, defiantly displays their ability to hatch new combinations of appropriated elements and present them as distinctly and gloriously theirs. Strutting a whole host of influences, spanning the decades and genres with beautiful cohessiveness. Both live and in the studio the sound is born from a modest setup of effect pedels, samplers, and sporadic ‘real’ instruments, generating a sonic landscape that even the better of their ever increasing imitators have no passport to.