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And so, the circus rolls back into town.
Animal Collective performances have always been frustrating, often beguilingly so, but of late it’s veered towards notoriously awkward. Though the act have always distanced the analogies that are constantly drawn between them and childhood, the Brooklyn collective’s most recent London performance – at the Coronet in July – saw them making like children, as they rushed like petulant jackanapes to hold up a painting to mother while the paint slid off the page, as tendencies to hastily showcase their latest material reared up as the anticipated airing of Strawberry Jam was swept aside.
For all the arms aloft in disarray as Strawberry Jam saw the act turn their backs on the minimalist noise-folk that marked out their initial recordings, it remains under different guises. Dainty opener ‘Dancer’, with Avery Tare lulling nonsensically, for all its chiming electronics shares many parallels with the act’s early incarnation, only shifted onto a different plateau. Rapturously received perhaps, but earlier material, including ever-manic renditions of ‘Who Could Win A Rabbit’ and ‘Banshee Beat’, seem increasingly eclipsed by pastures new.
Again with Deakin absent, the act pick at Sung Tongs and Feels in equal measures, as well as the newly realised tracks, including the deranged hullabaloo of ‘Walk Around With You’. But it is …Jam material that receives the utmost attention. As heads shake with loose-necked vigour to a hectic rendition of ‘Chores’, ‘Derek’ parps with uneasy delirium and ‘Peacebone’ befittingly calls out that “a blow out does not mean I’ll have a good night” as the elbows jar to find space in the downsized venue. But it is ‘Fireworks’ that splinters off most vividly. As stuttering tape loops lap compulsively, the track opens and is held, teetering to and fro, mutating into ‘Essplode’ and back before exploding into life. Elsewhere, Panda Bear’s ‘Song For Ariel’ is fittingly incorporated as it sifts into new track ‘Bear Hug’ and underlines the way this act work: comfortable around each others’ separate ventures, free of pretension.
With such a focus on retaining a momentum throughout, with such subtleties in the transition between tracks carrying the set and drawing away from the erroneous notions of any improvisation, an encore seems unnecessary. Moments later this is not the case as the plaintive ‘No More Running’ and demented jabbering of ‘Leaf House’ leaping around compulsively as gurning jaws are left agape.
The circus is never quite as good as you expect it to be, returning home clutching a bag containing a comatose goldfish and a novelty key ring. This feeling of disappointment has often been left when Animal Collective came to town, but, this evening, the circus came good.
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