The acclaimed quartet form Baltimore are in town touring their latest album, Centipede Hz, which has (by their standards) met a lukewarm critical reception. From the midst of a set of glowing teeth framing the stage, the group use an assorted collection of snyths, sequencers, drums, guitars and an epilepsy inducing light-show to paint the primary colours of their experimental pop onto the walls of the cavernous room. Indeed such amounts of equipment are rarely seen out of a recording studio and each member looks more like a scientist at work rather than a musician performing live.
Busy opener ‘Rosie Oh’ sets the tone for the evening, groaning under the weight of the energetic sounds which make up it’s whole. Two songs pass by in a dizzying haze before genre bending summer single ‘Honeycomb’ is dropped. It’s warping bass and rhythms triggers a trance like state that carries over into the bouncy ‘Lion In A Coma’ and aggressive ‘Moonjock.’
Throughout, the foursome barely moving from their horseshoe shape stage set up. Normally this sort of performance, or lack thereof, is a turn off, but the complexity of music on offer requires concentration, timing and supreme skill and such musical virtuosity is all the entertainment that’s required.
This juxtaposition of the bands energetic music against their lack of stage physicality results in an unresolved tension. Being slaves to pushing musical boundaries the band are tied to their workspace, effectively creating themselves a cage in which to perform. This tension carries over to the crowd, who in reverence for the artistry on show have remain reserved.
Animal Collective string this tension along until the finale of show, releasing the pressure which has built up in the very air with Beach Boy sounding ‘Brother Sport.’ Avery Tare and Deakin finally break free from their shackles, and dance center stage as if in signal everyone to join in. The release is shattering for mind and body. The anthemic ‘Peacebone’ follows, impossibly ratcheting up the sensory overload in layers of dense samples and cathartic release. Limbs convulse, breathing becomes shallow and sharp, as your eyes widen to a point of no return.
To draw such sensations and life out of the drab surround of the cold surround of warehouse is the province of truly great musicians. Something, least we not forget, Animal Collective have been for over a decade and will continue to be for as long as we’re lucky enough to have them.