"Why am I still looking for a golden age?", sings Avery Tare on Animal Collectives ninth outing in twelve years. Avey Tare's aggressive and load vocal make several appearance's on Centipede Hz, rather than his delicate and heavily reverberated vocal on previous album Merriweather Post Pavilion. Throughout reviews of Centipede Hz, you will notice a trend in comparison with previous album. Every artists has this, but not as much as Animal Collective. MPP had beautiful easy synth loops and above all, pop songs at it's heart. Strawberry Jam was heavily electronic, with a spectacular amount of synth loops and soundscpaes used to create a vivid, yet clustered atmosphere on tracks like 'For Reverend Green' and 'Chores'. Three years have passed since Animal Collectives most accessible album. Centipede Hz is a step in a new direction. Structurally, the band stay grounded in the indiesphere of music. Nevertheless, Animal Collective are back in our minds, and who wouldn't want that?
The thunderous synthesizer riff enters on 'Moonjock' with layers of percussion and guitar adding to the mix. Tare's quick paced vocal drifts with the peculiar synth soundscapes and blunt instrumentation, clearly provided by Deakin; Who returns after a five year break. There's a brilliant instrumental segment about three minutes in where the synths and bass collide to create an enigmatic clustered sound, this can only be achieved by Animal Collective. The lyrics are surprisingly clear, with a 60's road trip theme. The track comes to a sudden stop, with a hard hitting bass loop and some ambient synthesizers at a low volume, bringing to present the tracks of 'Spirit They've Gone, Spirit They've Vanished' back in 2000. Of course this wouldn't be an Animal Collective album without a sweet crossfade. 'Today's Supernatural' has a lovely left sided synthesizer riff and sporadic percussion, live and drum machine. Avey Tare delivers an aged vocal, it's a very back of the throat vocal and heavily distorted. His vocal directs the track, as he did in Moonjock. The instrumentation is extreme, literally... Extreme. There's so many explosive beats and synth layers. The odd bit of ambiance comes through with the heavily effected vocals and (what I can only imagine) time consuming production. Nine minutes in and Animal Collective are in full throttle.
'Rosie Oh' does bring the tempo down drastically, thank god for that. The excitement and fast paced structures of the previous few tracks reminded me of The Go! Team. The catchy layered refrain of "I'm on my own" is ear catching and makes me want to go back and listen again. Rosie Oh is far less in your face, it's by far one of the sweetest and slowest on Centipede Hz, not to mention the shortest. There's two sides of Animal Collective, the story telling, indie rock/pop structural side and the layers of soundscapes and musique-concrete. With Rosie Oh, this can be picked apart and heard differently when you ignore certain aspects of this track. The vocal is fantastic, as is the bass and synthesizer loop, it's the mass amount of 'unnecessary' and do quote me, 'unnecessary' noises that weaken Animal Collective here. Most of the time it works... But on Centipede Hz, it should be left out and applied during live sets.
'Honeycomb / Gotham' was a great single released earlier in the year. Centipede Hz seems to lack this style of track. 'Applesauce' is kind of confusing. The lyrical content is very different, "I eat a mango and I'm feeling like a little honey can roll." I mean, what? This is like a food appreciating track, "Oh Pink Lady your days so distinguished are a movement so fluid. So smooth against my palm. Reminisce of the days when they all praised your sweet red delicious." I'm feeling the fast paced vocal. The drumming is surprisingly relaxing and groovy. That's because Centipede Hz is an odd album... 'Wide Eyed' features Deakin on lead vocals. He has a bitter and light vocal that fits the mood of this track like apple and pie. The off beats and synthesizer crescendos on the left side are great to hear. The further in to Centipede Hz you listen, the more you understand and appreciate about the recording process. I can't continue mentioning a left sided synth or right sided, because theirs so many different musical aspects to Animal Collectives music. So many variations and synth sounds come across in just one track.
I think I'm not alone in asking for more Panda Bear on this album. It seems he's become more of a drummer, relegating his top two position alongside Avey Tare to Geologists samples. Of course Panda Bear adds his sampler parts, but how are we supposed to negotiate between all these sounds. 'Father Time' is probably my least favourite track on Centipede Hz because of it's inability to excite me. The synth loop is melodic, but the vocal and drumming is a little too predictable and recyclable. The follow up track, 'New Town Burnout' is much brighter and better. I'm sure I've heard them use this drum pattern before, nonetheless this track is a delicious electronic symphony. The drum machine is heavy, with brilliant keyboard sound son the left side. There's this sci-fi synthesizer running aimlessly in the background, which I think makes this track. It's just there for effect and it does that perfectly. The synth samples fade in and out on Panda Bear's outstanding vocal. Avey plays the high pitched organ-esque sound, with Panda Bear using his voice to add textures to the instrumental segments. This track isn't the best on Centipede Hz, although it is up there. People don't realize the simplicity of Animal Collective at times. Especially when Panda Bear takes the lead. He makes a very simple song complicated. He's an exceptional vocalist.
The crossover between New Town Burnout and my favourite 'Monkey Riches' is extraordinary. I've been waiting for this synthesizer loop since I heard it live on year ago. Avey Tare takes lead vocals, respectively, this is his kind of track. The drumming thumps in with rhythm. I can feel a dance groove going on as Avey Tare repeats, "I don't wanna knock you down." The synth loop returns and is always heard vividly, even when the track erupts with several layers of synth and percussion. This is a good example of a unique Animal Collective track where everything just seems to go correctly. The synth loops and the chord progression on the chorus, Tare's vocal and the ecliptic moments...The synth is always there. It's a triumphant track with the most catchy, mature and technical pieces of instrumentation. Avey Tare's layered vocal at the end closes it off fantastically. It's one of my favourite tracks of 2012. The white noise distortion leads us in to the following track 'Mercury Man'. Animal Collective have always been a band that do their best, meaning the back album tracks are neither worse or better than the opening few. They know by now that their fans want the album experience, and my do they give it. Mercury Man does have a rather static beat, but Tare's spacious vocal leads the way with an enduring chorus. The lyrics are generally better than some of the other tracks on Centipede Hz, "Bad vibes I've got hold dementia. When I'm one thousand Hz from home." It's a sad song and the haunting synths bring the mood down after the Monkey Riches energy-fuelled happiness.
Avey Tare takes the lead vocals on 'Pulleys'. This track has more percussion rhythms and vocal layers than first expected. Like many Animal Collective albums, the first listen is always the hardest, and I'm sure many people have never returned to some of those albums because of the inaccessibility. Centipede Hz is no different. When you get passed the layers and production, something delicate and sweet still stands. Tracks like Pulleys and Rosie Oh have that ethereal edge. It's an admirable direction to go from your career highlight with MPP to this jangly and avant-garde like album. 'Amanita' brings Animal Collective back down to Earth with a reverberated and delayed guitar by Deakin and odd ball samples by Geologist. Tare delivers one of his best vocals, while Panda Bear puts every ounce of effort into creating a percussion based atmosphere that doesn't hide behind the layers of synth.
Centipede Hz is the longest Animal Collective album since their debut. All 54 minutes can be felt. It's not particularly a hard listen at first, it's just a loud and unusual listen. The AnCo experience is still present. Five / ten listens later and it becomes evident Animal Collective have acquired a further taste for 60's psychedelia and musique concrete. The synth loops are outstanding as always, however they're not as accessible or in focus as previous albums. Each member does their thing individual thing, it's still a surprise that these four individuals can create this sound. Animal Collective are the psych-pop version of what The Velvet Underground where in the 60's and 70's. Strip this album down to it's very core and you have a beautifully structured pop album. The themes are still there, they've just painted and plastered these tracks with layers of percussion, synth and vocals. That's the Animal Collective way, you have to admire that.