Animal Collective – Centipede Hz (2012)

I have been waiting patiently for the release date of Animal Collective’s latest album since their critically acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavillion since its recent live stream. After a number of highly suspicious leaks which turned out to be nothing more than crappy transcodes of the original stream, a tripfriend from /sp/ seems to have delivered and provided a legitimate 320 leak of this album. Finally I can start to put some words down on this album now that its intricacies are a little clearer, and boy are there are lot of intricacies.

I find talking about Animal Collective albums enormously difficult; they are often such huge and spacious affairs that it’s really tempting to just go through track-by-track and dissect them, but the result would be a fantastically tedious read due to the sheer amount of content. Sadly this is near enough what I ended up doing, but I just couldn’t find another way to do this fantastic album justice.

The premise of Centipede Hz, that is to say the underlying theme of the album, is that it is meant to be a kind of psychedelic radio stream, and this is most obvious between tracks as their boundaries become blurred by white noise, bursts of warped static and snippets of caught radio transmissions. This concept does thin out a little later in the album, but there we are. There is a big use of synths here, a continuation from MPP, but it’s not as immediately obvious as it was before purely because every track just has so much additional “stuff” going on, and yet it all seems to have its own little space reserved; sometimes it’s at the fore but quite often it just acts as a subtle textural entity; nearly every track is an impossible myriad of electronic twangles and warbles that each somehow manage to ride the chaos and make it a compelling listen.

The accessible pop side of AnCo, which has been slowly refined from Feels, is brought right in at the start with the incredible “Moonjock”. While perhaps it is not quite representative of the album’s overall sound, it truly is them at their addictive and insane best. As Avey sings about driving home in his beat-up old Camino, it slips into a mesmerising climax towards the end as he sings “ran out again” breathlessly over and over, accompanied by intense guitar, percussion and wild electronica. Thoroughly groove inducing; if this doesn’t make you excited for the upcoming music then I don’t know what will.
It ends somewhat abruptly but slipstreams straight into previously released single “Today’s Supernatural” via a rush of radio sequences. Again the pop sensibilities are being carried forward and we see definite verse/chorus distinctions emerge (“Come on and LELELELELELE GO!”). This is perhaps the posterchild track of the album due to its memorable and distinctive lyrics.

LELELELELELE

“Rosie, Oh” is some kind of 60’s throwback with a distinct Beatles feel. While it is something of a stretch to say that this album has a persistent sound/theme, it does feel very much out of place compared with the others (and I personally don’t enjoy it at all). Luckily my favourite track of the album chases it up, “Applesauce”. Once again we are thrown into a bouncy and jovial atmosphere filled with Avey’s excitable vocals, hugely emphasised by Panda’s percussion. The chorus is by far the best though; each line climaxing as the Deak power slides on the guitar.

Speaking of which, Deakin actually has a track of his own, “Wide Eyed”. There’s a somewhat repetitive feeling to the backing melody here which is a bit disappointing, but the lyrics speak volumes to me of parenting and his concerns.

“And why all these doubts?
And what are all these doubts?
I see in her eyes that I’m holding her fine but all I’m hearing is doubts”

As we move into the latter half the tone seems to get a bit more melancholy with the ambiguous and uninterpretable lyrics of “Father Time”, moving into the downbeat Panda Bear track “New Town Burnout”. It’s been criticised a bit for sounding too much like his Tomboy album but it actually fits really well, what with its shuffling beats and violin string fragments.
As we reach the last few tracks I start to feel like I feel when I listen to Merriweather; tired. A lot of the original, excited energy from the early tracks is somewhat absent and I start to get a little bit sick of the unstoppable tumult of weird noises and bloops. In both “Mercury Man” and “Pulleys” a lot of the power has been sucked out and the melodies becoming increasingly less complex. In some ways it’s something of a nice warm down as the album begins to wind down but I just wished they’d kept up the ferocity and put in “Honeycomb” and/or “Gotham” in their stead. “Amanita” does swing me around in its closing moments though, I must say.

Overall, I am really, really enjoying this album, just in case you couldn’t tell. Jesus, I’m at 900 words already; if that’s not indicative of my love for this I don’t know what is. Sure, there are some weaker points near the end, IMHO, but there are also some singular stunners. As an entire entity I’m not 100% sold on its coherency but it doesn’t bother me too much, there’s just so many intricacies and little oddities to enjoy throughout that it more than makes up for any larger failings. Utterly brilliant release that I know I am underselling; there is simply too much content here for me to detail, just listen for yourselves.

9/10.

p.s. Centipede Hz > Here Comes The Indian > MPP > Strawberry Jam > Feels > Spirit They’ve Gone. Personal opinion, obviously

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Creamfields II: Electric Boogaloo

Even after the Muddening of Creamfields 2011 our spirits were not dampened and me and my friends bought fresh tickets ready for this year. Honestly, I think we all kind of believed that it couldnt get much worse than last year and had such a good time previously we were willing to challenge the weather and any potential discomfort it might cause and give it another go. Even with a week to go and somewhat miserable advance forecasts in hand, none of us really believed that it would get as bad as it did.

So just in case you haven’t read the news or live abroad, Creamfields is one of the UK’s biggest festivals for electronic dance music, with about 50,000 festivalgoers descending on a collection of fields in Cheshire for a weekend to see some of the big names in the industry perform live. Unfortunately, this year’s weather conditions were somewhat…more adverse than usual and essentially the entire site became a mire. Not that it doesn’t normally, it’s just that the mire doesn’t usually cause the main stages to sink and force the cancellation of the entire event, which is sadly what happened this year. It rained hard for more or less the entirety of Saturday night, and we awoke to the lovely sight of water and mud in our tent and a now completely saturated campsite. The paths had essentially become rivers of mud and pretty much everyone was perma-damp. What was particularly frustrating was the lack of information supplied by the organisers; I heard stuff on a brief walk from a bunch of people saying that the night was cancelled, but it wasn’t until we actually went and spoke to security that it was confirmed. Our tent neighbours were surprised to see us packing up and we had to explain to them what was going on because they hadn’t heard. I appreciate the difficulty of spreading the word to 50,000 people but a couple of loud-hailers would have done the job reasonably well.

I wont deny that it was pretty disappointing that we missed out on an entire day of music; one of my mates was particularly distraught that he wasn’t going to be able to see Deadmau5 play on the main stage, but we did manage to catch some great acts on the Saturday and still had a pretty good time all-round regardless. Got to see our man Jeremy Olander, Eric Prydz’s protigee who was the first act we saw last year, as well as Ben Gold, Above & Beyond and Gareth Emery, plus a couple of decent DJ’s playing the silent disco on the Friday night. Was all that worth the £150 that we spent on it? Well, yes and no, I think that depends from which angle you look at it from. It was certainly an experience (from every perspective) and it hasn’t really put me off from going again. As we said to each other, the mud, rain and cold were just about tolerable with the prospect of acts on the horizon; while we all felt pretty down on the Sunday morning even before the before the news, we were still looking forward to the acts later in the day. There was a good atmosphere and a very British sense of determination throughout; people were still having a good time behind the steely-eyed expressions and the bitter complaining.

Well, there you have it. While both Leeds and Reading partied on, the Creamfields crowds slowly and squelchingly sloshed their way offsite and home, disappointed and damp, but not without having had a good time first. Roll on 2013, nothing remotely unlucky about that number whatsoever.

Dear, Deacon & AnCo: Some (Leaked) Words

To make up for the lack of posts lately (even when I have a request sitting in my inbox, which’ll be coming soon), here are a few quick and brief words on some albums that are soon to be released:

Matthew Dear – Beams

I do have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Dear’s work; I can’t help but get sucked in to his deep, sexy, crooning vocals but I’ve never been too enamoured by the musical content. His recent singles, however, were definitely something I could get behind; choppy, tropical beats, weird processing and just a really infectious nature really made me excited for Beams, and it has certainly failed to disappoint.

There’s a very accessible House/Synth-Pop lilt to his music but unlike a good deal of artists from either of those genres Beams is intelligent and thoughtful in its production and lyrical content. It’s refreshing to see something so rooted in pop-music sensibilities have such a left-field take on things; it still has fat beats and an insatiable groove, but they’re clean and not obnoxious, unlike most of the music in the popular EDM scene at the moment.

7/10

Dan Deacon – America

I only downloaded America because I felt like I wasn’t keeping up with 2012 releases, but it turned out this hasn’t even been released yet, so I was a bit too eager. I’m actually really glad that I picked this up; whenever you download something labelled “Neo-Psychedelia” it’s pretty much a crap shoot in terms of what you’re going to be on the receiving end of, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Much like the country itself, America is a spacious and vast sounding album, sometimes flying over the empty expanses of bare, unexcited countryside with downtempo synth flutters, sometimes soaring over the cities accompanied by soft and obscured vocals, driven basslines and excited/uplifting electronic noise. There’s always an underlying heartbeat to this album, even when it’s crawling, but slowly and surely it builds and builds textures to euphoric climaxes. Extremely compelling and texturally fascinating.

8/10

Animal Collective  – Centipede Hz

Last night, Animal Collective streamed their upcoming album, making it the first time people had heard all the finished tracks together in their logical album sense (they have all been played live prior). Now, I’ve only heard it in its entirety just the once (although I am relistening presently), and for what is probably one of the most hyped albums of the year…I can’t help but feel that it is just a little lacklustre. With every one of their albums I have found there is a maturation period where you have to listen intently several times before you can really begin to enjoy it, so I’m hopeful I can come back to this and really like it, because at the moment I’m not being overwhelmed.

It definitely sounds like a logical progression from MPP, with the tracks being arguably even less weird musically and generally a bit more palatable and accessible all round, but still retaining the same punchiness and bursts of energy that AnCo deliver. It’s not that it’s retrodden ground exactly, nor is it entirely predictable, it feels like an intelligent refinement of their sound but one that is far less raw and shocking, and to me that’s kind of the appeal. Time will tell; I can already feel it growing on me. “Applesauce” is just brilliant though, straight up.