Simply naming an album Feels just seems like the most sincere and genuine ‘declaration’ Animal Collective could have ever come up with for their 2004 album. Subtly blunt, the masterpiece’s ebb and flow was a continuous outpour of rushing gusts (“Grass”), culminating and dynamic growers (“Banshee Beat”) and radiantly beautiful (“Loch Raven”) strokes of genius. To sense and feel their degrees by color, by sound, by touch was impossibly plausible with Feels. Followed with arguably a stronger release, Strawberry Jam, the band lost a member and still set out with ambitious ideas on Merriweather Post Pavilion. The latter seems like the obvious highlight of their career but something about Panda Bear and Avey Tare combining with two other brilliant minds, rather than just one, ultimately breathes more flashes of raw beauty. And so now, with Deakin back into the fold, everything sounds entirely complete again.
With Centipede Hz the band returns with an album featuring the dynamic foursome and was recorded in Texas’ Sonic Ranch Studios – where Beach House’s 2012 triumph, Bloom, was also recorded. These new songs play to a meshing of sorts where the emphasis lies on the transitions into and around the songs; while the actual meat of the music is brilliantly juxtaposed with a myriad of styles. By the time the listener reaches the sprawling “Amanita,” they’re left wondering what the atmospheric and swirling dramatics mean, before it jumps into a hyperdrive of rhythms. If Feels was meant to draw attention to subtle engagements, this centipede is electric with tenacious intensity and the songs’ immediacy is clairvoyantly misleading. As Tare calls out that he’s going to eventually return, the music is crashing into a synth-driven, cymbal-crashing, tumultuous ride that magically closes the album out.
The only detractor to what Animal Collective accomplished on Merriweather Post Pavilion is the polished production and convenient approaches. After Panda Bear declared to the world his worth as an immense musician with 2007’s blissfully rich Person Pitch, it made utter sense to combine his newly regarded skill on stellar slices like “My Girls,” but unlike past, much messier and much edgier material, it felt a certain amount of coldness. Surely, these are minor objections to begin with, the album is definitely still part of the band’s illustrious discography and one of their finest, but in comparison to the wild passion on say, Strawberry Jam, the desire was unfound. Centipede Hz continues where that aforementioned 2007 album left off: flowing rushes of blood to the head at optimum energy. Even when the menacing “Mercury Man” appears, the chemistry the band is feeding off is entirely in full focus; the blend between instrumental music on this song is absolutely flawless. The massive amount of instruments and layers makes for countless moments where the overjoy is also on high-frequency.
On “Moonjock” the speedy countdown introduces stomping drums and a blistered guitar feedback that is immediately direct, in comparison to past ventures. Then again, while “In the Flowers” sounded far more neat and glistened with a gradual entrance, “Moonjock” declares a much raunchier, rowdier, and yes, rawer sound to Animal Collective’s arsenal. It’s definitely welcoming, too, especially with the way the songs fashionably form around these huge walls of sound that the band has altered. After the five-minute explosion, the band wastes little time with the circular pattern and feel of “Today’s Supernatural.” It’s obviously clear that the notion on this album calls for rhythmic interplay, intertwining patterns that contrast and compliment each other and more of the smashing success from before. It’s downright exceptional once you reach “Applesauce” and its amazing songcraft that you realize you’re just barely four songs in.
Each song is impactful and memorable, with a fantastic approach to songcraft that focuses on minimal gestures, mixed with tremendous layers and layers of sounds. When considering what “Applesauce” accomplishes, one would need to take in songs like “For Reverend Green,” that also sparkled not with glistening tones but because of terrifically gifted melodies and gorgeous harmonies. On the former the band again tends to the radio-frequency vibes with a spacious entry before the scaling keyboard and the love of fruit takes over. With metaphors running abound and Tare singing about losing things far too fast, the music bounces off the walls with propelling percussion and stunning transitions. It’s fiercely in your face but mildly danceable – and while it’s probably somewhere more in the middle – it’s hard to deny the sheer perfection that is being delivered.
But at the furthest outreach, it’s definitely obvious that Centipede Hz showcases a band fully ready to conquer the world once again. I remember seeing them back at Coachella 2011 and though they were already far removed from the music on Merriweather Post Pavilion, they obliterated the crowd with the music found on Centipede Hz. In typical Animal Collective fashion, already onto the newest project, the screens amassed randomly vivid images while the music constantly played for an hour straight. I don’t remember them ever taking a break between songs – they sort of washed it all over the exhausted crowd – and while half looked confused waiting for “Brothersport,” the band was already working on the magic of songs like “Monkey Riches.” Maybe they won’t ever truly conquer the world but for those that are lucky enough to get it, they continue to conquer our brains with every single new album.