Back-to-Back, Digital Breathless
These days, with a pedal board or studio full of otherworldly tones at your disposal, it is remarkably easy to fall prey to noodling around with those textures and effects seeming too unique to pass up. Centipede Hz, Animal Collective’s latest album has a lot of interesting tones, bleeps and bloops within it. Frankly, it is practically bathed in them. However, as the saying goes, quality rules over quantity, and as luck would have it, Animal Collective have plenty of that to offer as well.
In all honesty, it is easy to see how some people, fan or non-fan alike, would be a little standoffish at the onset of this train-car parade of songs. There is little room to breathe between the sonic ideas of something like opener “Moonjack,” getting into it and digesting it, and then taking on the stuttering, stratosphere-poking synthesizers of “Today’s Supernatural” immediately thereafter. Perhaps this is where the mystical “second listen” must come into play, as with prepared ears, the listener is better equipped to pick up the downright wonderful vocal melodies that pepper each song between AC’s trademark tribal grooves.
There is a nice sense of cohesion to the songs, sounding sonically familial but never same-y. True, that might strike you as an obvious trait any half-decent album should hold inherently, but the accomplishment here is especially notable in light of everything going on from track to track. To be blunt, there are no bad songs on this album. No song stands out as a half-hearted experiment or otherwise. That being said though, the album doesn’t really transcend to exemplary heights until the hypnotic closer, “Amantia.” This is not an outright critique, but merely a symptom of unashamedly bunching up–or dare I say it, centipeding–some really good tracks together without too many of them achieving greatness.
Whether it is the almost jingle-like refrains of “Applesauce,” or the pleasantly discombobulating rhythms of “Monkey Riches,” the album takes you a lot of places on the sonic landscape. It is not an exceptionally short album, but is paced and performed in a way where you don’t realize eight tracks have passed while on your morning commute, and thus you are compelled to remind yourself where exactly you have been in the last 53 minutes.
Centipede Hz is one of those albums that often comes dangerously close to suffocating and overwhelming the listener, but in the most sublime sense possible, stops just short of doing so, allowing the listener to appreciate the songs at face value, densely textured as they are. And though the album has no truly salient moment that propels it into classic territory, the log of songs here are of a highly intriguing and enjoyable quality.