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Animal Collective Continue to Take Risks

October 29th, 2013

Animal Collective – Union Transfer – October 28, 2013

(Photo: Jared Levy)

Animal Collective maintain a following by continually challenging and redefining their sound. There’s nothing easy about listening to radio interference and white noise, but buried in the experimental band’s musical trances are subtle shifts and changes. The pleasures are similar to gazing at a piece of visual art where you start with base enjoyment and then peel back layers of understanding until there’s confusion … and then what?

The dial was continually turned on last night at the second sold-out show of Animal Collective’s two-night stay at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. Most of the songs came from their latest album, Centipede Hz, where the idea of crafting a live show through radio mimicry was originated. The stage setup, designed with dangling teeth and a projection screen coiled around a pointy felt tail, also drew from the album. The images were that of tropical-colored spin art flashed in time to the music. The night’s theme was Halloween, and costumed attendees filled the venue. Some dressed as animals, perhaps as an ode to Animal Collective, but the band members looked more like a collection of smoked-out zombies. There was little talking—some kind words about the opener, Dan Deacon, and Halloween—but screeches and industrial-noise loops cued the next song and then the next song until one began that everyone knew: “My Girls” with the chorus repeating, “I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things, like our social stats/ I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls.”

It was during this song—along with some other tracks off Merriweather Post Pavilion—in which people pushed forward and even the quietest attendees mouthed the words. Still, there were distinctively difficult moments, notably the breaks before “What Would I Want? Sky” and “Peacebone.” These numbers blossomed from a struggle to arrive at the opening notes. Risky behavior for some bands, but for Animal Collective, the pleasure of their music is intrinsic to the process of its creation: four minds molding and dismantling sound. —Jared Levy