In the midst of 2009, a sterling year for fresh and exciting music, one act pretty much had the world in a tailspin – Animal Collective. With Merriweather Post Pavilion, the psych pop experimentalists not only saw their stock rise significantly, but also managed to gather many album of the year accolades. Fast forward nearly three years, and the Baltimore natives are following up that success with album number ten, Centipede Hz.
Before I begin, let’s get this out the way, so we can move on. Centipede Hz, although great, is not as good as Merriweather. Then again, the album was clearly never intended to be Merriweather. It’s a different breed of beast, and more power to it. Where the group’s previous outings have opted for a more dreamy, ambient nature, this record is bulkier and built upon chunky compositions. At points, though, this fuller approach could probably benefit from a little trimming down, while some of the record’s stodgier sounds and prolonged running times can make the it feel slightly bloated. Adding to these qualms, some of the flat, numb vocal performances from returning member Deakin (on “Wide Eyed”, for example) also dilute the records quality. To counteract these shortcomings, however, Centipede Hz delivers a long list of pros that overshadow the majority of its cons.
Animal Collective have a proven track record for slipping subtle, yet unshift-able melodies inside of your head, leaving them there to manifest long after the record has been played. This album is no different. Tracks like lead single “Todays Supernatural” and “Monkey Riches” weave minimal but absolutely infectious melodies into your subconscious. Snappy, simple hooks and colourful instrumentation play their part, but the real secret to the album’s success lies within its progressions and sonic transfers. For the most part, tracks bleed and blend into each other with no effort and plenty of excitement. Warped loops, pulsing electronics, bubbling synths and distorted samples taken from tv and radio jingles, not only add to the kaleidoscopic spectrum of sound, they help create and maintain the illusion that Centipede Hz isn’t really an album, its a brain tickling, psychedelic broadcast. Like a possessed radio with telekinetic powers, the album grabs a hold of both your brain and ear, dragging you deep into it’s rapidly unravelling and cascading vortex of sound.
Centipede Hz may not be as sharp, striking or even as soulful as their previous efforts, but the album is a weird and wonderful example of a band in their prime, enjoying themselves whilst they experiment with ideas and methods of execution. It’s not only a great edition to Animal Collective’s catalogue, but a layered treat for fans and non fans alike.