Available on Domino (Sept. 4, 2012)
When Strawberry Jam was released in 2007 it was difficult to imagine Animal Collective creating a follow-up album of equaled excitement, innovation, and approachability, but they managed to surpass it with the masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion. So how would the band respond to the explosion of critical acclaim and fandom that followed the release of MPP? Would they produce a surefire hit, appeasing a majority of fans with a loop-heavy, melodic chill-zone Merriweather sequel? The answer is no. Animal Collective would go into the studio and do what they always have done—whatever they feel like.
Centipede Hz is, in certain respects, a return to Animal Collective’s past. For the first time since 2007, guitarist Josh Dibb (Deakin) has joined the other three members in writing and recording a new album. The band relies much less on samples for inspiration this time, instead opting for more of a live sound with Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) helming the percussive end, Dave Portner (Avey Tare) mainly on keys, Brian Weitz (Geologist) sticking with his sampler, and Deakin on baritone guitar. Most notably, Centipede Hz exudes an overarching intensity in its compositions and pace not achieved since 2003’s Here Comes the Indian.
Like the majority of their previous releases, however, Centipede Hz runs together as one continuous flow, with each song bleeding into the next. The transitions were constructed as if old radio advertisements were being hurled through the cosmos for any unsuspecting alien to stumble upon. With “Rosie Oh,” surprisingly one of only two Panda Bear songs, a bouncing bass and laser sample back up the clean vocal lines, sounding as if made inside a haunted cake factory. On the first ever Deakin-fronted Animal Collective track, “Wide Eyed,” the guitarist adopts a sort of roaming melody that hangs over a hypnotic and bubbling beat. Perhaps the most easily accessible track on first listen is Avey Tare’s “Today’s Supernatural.” The winding synthesizers, distorted guitar crunches, and rolling beats play secondary to the best collection of hooks on the release. Although Centipede Hz may not immediately stand out as exceptional, the songs have a way of slowly seeping in so that something new is revealed with each listen.
Ben Sauder is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of Utne Reader. Find him on Google+.