Animal Collective are four friends who like to get together to play music and watch movies and play football (a.k.a. soccer).
Live review of Webster Hall - 11/21
Animal Collective started its set on Sunday night at Webster Hall with rough scraping sounds, a loop of a shout and a swelling chordal drone. It was the latest variant of the drone that runs through great primitivist New York art-rock. And Animal Collective harnessed it in ways all its own: not the ominous fixations of the Velvet Underground, not the oceanic expanses of Sonic Youth, not the jittery stasis of TV on the Radio, but something at once joyful, obsessive and oddly pastoral. Animal Collective, from Brooklyn, makes albums that betray long, strange, manic hours in the studio, layering and tweaking sounds. On its most recent albums, "Sung Tongs" and the wonderful new "Feels" (Fat Cat), song forms emerge from the echoes and loops and speed-shifted voices. With song titles like "Grass" and "Bees," the lyrics, when they can be deciphered, place human interactions in a dream world of nature and geography that's equally likely to be bucolic or dangerous. The songs elapse on an individual time scale that has nothing to do with three-minute pop expectations. Often, the lyrics say their piece - or shriek it, in the excitable vocals of the band's guitarists, Avey Tare (a k a Dave Portner) and Deakin (Josh Dibb) - then drift into dizzying instrumental stretches populated with as many sounds as a forest (or a city block) on a summer night. Onstage, the four-member band could still construct elaborate electronic wildernesses, with Geologist (Brian Weitz) manipulating electronic gadgets to send voices and sounds ricocheting above and through the music. But it also pared down the music to a core that could be almost folksy - a chord or two, a skiffle-like drumbeat from Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), a voice with a melody that could have Appalachian roots - or insistently, relentlessly Minimalist. At times the music rocked, but just as often it heaved in slow-gusting crescendos, bounced like a horse-drawn cart, shimmered like a moonlit pond or bounded ahead like a newly unleashed dog. Behind the music was the attentive planning of a band determined to be warped and exploratory; imitators of the Animal Collective are likely to pride themselves on a madcap self-indulgence that's only half of the charm. Even as the Animal Collective's songs spiraled into soundscapes or melted themselves down, there was something logical and organic within: the rigor of the New York drone coupled with the whimsy of a band that has created its own habitats and laws of evolution. It's rock with a giddy intelligent design.- Jon Pareles