Animal Collective gets live on Centipede Hz

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If the Top 10 countdown that kicks off Centipede Hz isn’t enough of a tip-off, the slamming beats of “Moonjock” ought to drive it home: Animal Collective’s new album is, obviously and unabashedly, a rock record.

“Yeah, totally,” agrees Josh “Deakin” Dibb, reached in Los Angeles, where he, David “Avey Tare” Portner, Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox, and Brian “Geologist” Weitz are rehearsing. “I think we would all say that. In some ways, we intentionally wanted this to be our version of a rock record—which, depending on who you’re talking to, is either a new thing for us or not a new thing for us. I don’t know. Some people compare it to other stuff we’ve done in the past, and there’s certainly links. But that’s definitely what it is: it’s totally a rock record.”

Of course, it’s a rock record made by Animal Collective, which means that samples and electronically washed vocals still factor prominently in the mix. As ever, the songs are fascinatingly opaque, their enigmatic lyrics partially obscured by messy layers of sound. But the first thing you’ll notice about Centipede Hz is that it sounds like a live band rather than a bedroom project.

“That’s been a really natural progression,” Dibb says of Animal Collective’s emerging muscularity. “We always are looking for new landscapes and new qualities, and maybe certain approaches to things in the past had become really too easy for us, especially in terms of the more atmospheric, smeared-up kind of stuff.…We were really psyched to focus on each sound really holding its own space, rather than being something that kind of works into a giant mesh.”

Dibb doesn’t want to give too much away about what the new songs mean, save for his sole lyrical contribution, “Wide Eyed”. That number, he explains, is a characteristically open-ended look at relationships and responsibilities.

“The genesis of that story had to do with a friend of mine that sort of, at a certain moment in their life, needed a lot of help, and what it felt like to be in the position where I felt like I could provide that, to a certain degree,” he says. “But it’s also about seeing the limits of that, and how each person is kind of an island on their own.”

The multi-instrumentalist adds that, despite the overall upbeat tone of Centipede Hz, some kind of struggle is also behind much of chief songwriter Portner’s work.

“There’s a lot of dealing with, well, aging—that’s one thing that comes up a lot,” he allows. “And relationships: what the fruits of your own actions are. But in dealing with those things, the purpose of it is to find a way to move through them, or into them, in a way that is useful.

“Ultimately, we’re all really positive people, and none of us are really super-into writing songs that dwell in pain, or dwell in loss of hope, or dwell in decay,” he adds. “I guess that’s where the ecstatic element in the music comes from: finding ways to push through that and fight through that. Ultimately, you want to come to an end that feels good, even in the crazy world we live in.”

And if rock’s cathartic energy helps, so be it.

Animal Collective plays Malkin Bowl on Wednesday (September 19).

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