Animal Collective - Centipede Hz

Following up a masterpiece like Merriweather Post Pavilion is a thankless task: There’s almost no way you can create a better album, and even if you do, don’t expect anyone listening to think so.

And while Animal Collective could have retreated to previous successes to reduce that pressure, the band instead threw us for a loop: Centipede Hz doesn’t recall the band’s pre-MPP records (contrary to suggestions made by the band and several early listeners); at most, it reminds us more of those old records than it does MPP, but as with any Animal Collective project, there’s no going backward: The only thing Centipede Hz is looking back at is us, from its own world somewhere in the future.

The band projects these little futures in each of their albums, which offer a place where music is very, very different from what it is now. The world of Centipede Hz distinctly derives from its title: There are, as the band hinted to Pitchfork this year, “all these arms” to each song, like a centipede. And the mechanistic, measured frequencies of Hz chug beneath many of them. The percussion and sampled elements work like cogs snapping into other gears inside some kind of machine, and the African and Latin guitar accents borrowed from the borrowers — David Byrne and other ’70s New Yorkers — crisply power the groove of each song.

And refreshingly, the widely held belief that Animal Collective had “discovered” itself on MPP proves baseless: the creepiness of Centipede Hz, inherent in a dark Tropicalia fluttering throughout, makes absolutely no plays toward the mellowed radio-friendliness of the last album, and few toward the deeply confrontational aesthetics of their early work, in noise and sampling (see Here Comes The Indian, Danse Manatee, or Hollinndagain).

There’s also a really left-field source to some of Centipede Hz: a definite draw from classic rock, British and American. With the exception of the rhythmic oddities and electronic flair, more than a few songs — “Moonjock,” “Applesauce,” and “Today’s Supernatural,” with big guitars and big hits — wouldn’t sound out of place in the hands of Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy, or Foreigner. On a mix released by Geologist — originally compiled to give Centipede Hz producer Ben Allen an idea of the vibe the band was going for as they entered the studio — there’s plenty of psychedelic, Latin music, and experimental compositions. Most of Centipede Hz, though, draws from the ’80s — however, where many of their pop contemporaries are informed by that decade’s bass drum-heavy, hip-hop, and R&B landscapes, Animal Collective cribs from other-worldlier, darker elements.

On “New Town Burnout,” Animal Collective pairs the skittering paranoia of David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with the sweeping echoes of the Human League (also audible on “Wide Eyed”). “Rosie Oh” could be an Orange Juice cover, but it’s excellently done, and contains some of the subtler studio and synthesizer wizardry on the album. “Monkey Riches” and “Wide Eyed” are early standouts: teeth-gritting, mantra-like pounders with waves to the repetition and synth squeaks of Can and Neu!. They do what great Animal Collective songs always do: delight with their epic scope (with none of the cathedral reverb favored by other bands) while totally reestablishing the possibilities of the band itself. Animal Collective sounds, as they always do when they are at their best, like a bunch of people who have never seen their instruments played before, but are extremely skilled with them.

That’s the world in which Centipede Hz exists. “Amanita” closes that world: The sound literally melts apart at the end, fitting for a song named for an extremely lethal mushroom often mistaken for the psychedelic one. The song, like some others here, feels a little lost, and has less at stake than its title would suggest. The new album may not cohere like MPP, but we need to accept the possibility of a record so excellent we don’t understand it yet — something with so much hype that we expect it to really warp minds and trip us out. Give it time. I can assure you it’s not lethal.

Comments (99)
  1. It’s okay.

  2. Wide Eyed is a pretty great song. I like the whole thing so far, but it’s hard to pick stand out tracks since I’ve kind of been listening straight through while at work.

  3. I can only assume that someone will seek out the parts of this article that aren’t in complete adoration of the album and revolt.

    Ridiculously hateful responses, come on down!

  4. not nearly as good as what has come before…i would say more annoying than enjoyable

  5. I really enjoy the direction they’ve headed with this album. I am not at a point where I can start comparing it to other AC releases, but I definitely came into with lowered expectations (not really sure why) and was on board within the first 20 seconds of “Moonjock.”

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  7. “but we need to accept the possibility of a record so excellent we don’t understand it yet ”

    translated:

    “once an inevitable critical consensus emerges that this is great, you will all like it, even if it sounds like a mess to you right now”

    • That’s the smartest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about anything

    • In a big way I agree with you, but this type of thing–an instance where a previous indifference to an album suddenly becomes adoration when the album inexplicably just “clicks”–does happen, and it’s not always faciliated by an across the board critical approval, either. My favourite record of all time is Sunset Rubdown’s ‘Random Spirit Lover’, a record which, for months, I was luke warm on, and a record that received reviews ranging from perfect to dismal. One day, it just…worked. It was sprawling and chaotic, uneven and unpredictable. The songs bled in to one another, and the overarching conceptual storyline was difficult to discern, even after many listens. Then it just happened, it meshed, made itself know as an album and I’ve loved it ever since.

      Wait, this isn’t where we preach about our love for Spencer Krug?

    • I was going to quote that, too. I remember similar sentiments being expressed about King of Limbs. I’ve given that record time, and more listens and I’m still not getting or enjoying it. That type of thinking ["we don't understand ityet"] sounds like a copout, however since this new AC is just being released, I grant that it may benefit from time and repeated listens. To quote Mr. Burns, I know what I hate, and I don’t hate it. cheers.

  8. v0 version that leaked today >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> stream. these songs are way too dense for 128kbps

  9. Listened to this again today, without the madness of the livestream to influence my opinion, and I’m pretty confident calling it one of my favorites of the year so far. Though I’m wondering why this article doesn’t use the updated cover…

  10. Loved the album. Thought a few songs were a little too dense for my liking, but I felt the same when “Today’s Supernatural” came out and now it’s stuck in my head 24/7, for all the good reasons, mind you. So I’m sure I’ll come around. “Applesauce” is fucking glorious though.

  11. THANK YOU BASED DEAK

    [img]http://www.escapeest.com/images/austinist/100902_deakin.jpg[/img]

  12. Centipede Hertz. Conceived, written and produced by Joshua ‘Deakin’ Dibb. Performed by the Animal Collective Group.

  13. This record seems like it’s going to be comparable to when someone sees any nonrepresentational artwork, for example Frank Stella’s work, where Western Art had no where else to go to except abstraction and nonrepresentational; Centipede Hz is the inevitability of Animal Collective’s nostalgic ability to capture emotions. This record takes previous knowledge to fully grasp, but do not think that makes the work pretentious, without this it still stands as a beautiful piece of (for the lack of genre names) “electronic” music. It’s roots and inspirations are there, but it’s ability to transcend makes this album truly avant-garde.

  14. too early to tell. i really didn’t like fiona’s new album at first, but after a while it grew on me and is now my second favorite of the year. this could be like that, or it could end up being a disappointment. for me, i’ll know in a couple weeks probably.

  15. So far “Moonjock” and “Amanita” are the stand out tracks for me. This album seems to have a Deerhoof chaos and playfulness to it.

  16. I did not expect to like this album (wasn’t big on the lead single), and I also didn’t really like MPP as much as everyone else seemed to (it was kind of a liked every-other song situation).

    But I really love this album so far.

    Feels is still my favorite, though.

  17. AC has always been a little hit or miss in my opinion; I alternate between thinking they are flat-out brilliant and that they might also be an “emperor has no clothes” situation. I like everything post-Feels, with MPP being my favorite, but I’ve been massively confused\bored\disappointed every time I’ve seen them live.

    That said, my initial reaction to Centipede HZ is that it is goddamn brilliant.

    • I agree, I know a lot of people say they like the cohesiveness of their albums and such but I honestly just LOVE a couple songs from every release they put out but find the albums as a whole pretty hit and miss. I did love listening to the live premier of this album though, that was a great idea.

  18. I think this is a brilliant album. It is messy, disjointed, dense to the point of confusion, and totally irreverent – but all in a manner seen with other great works of art. It seems silly to perch aloft an album whose composers are clearly thumbing their nose at their audience in jest – but it’s warranted.

    The break in Mercury Man before the final section send off is filled with sample upon sample – like Monet creating new colors, layering color upon color on the canvas – AC creates new sounds layering instruments and samples on top of each other…using soundscape as their canvas.

    I love this album and I hope they continue working collaboratively, together – in person. There is no doubt the final product benefited from their writing and recording this album together in the studio.

  19. I probably won’t even read this, considering that the article couldn’t POSSIBLY say that the new Animal Collective album is anything other than amazing.

  20. I really like it but it’s way less accessible than MPP and if a similar circlejerk occurs around it I will seriously have to question the honesty of some people who have never enjoyed such esoteric music.

    • But if it serves as a catalyst for some people to open up to more esoteric stuff than they are used to, that’s probably a good thing.

      • btw, good comment Rio. Bravo.

      • Okay, true. Looking back when I was a young’un I would never have gotten into the weird stuff I listen to today if it wasn’t for Kid A and some other relatively left-field stuff released by big groups. But I just hope if people who wouldn’t normally listen to stuff like this listen to this and decide they like it it’s because they’re intrigued by what they hear, not because LA LA LA ANIMAL COLLECTIVE IS SO GOOD YOU GUISE!!!!!11!!! So case by case basis, whatever.

    • So, so cynical. Who gives a shit if people only pretend to like it so they can satisfy some complex within ‘em? Let them at it, I’m gonna enjoy this album all the same.

      And saying that there music is ‘esoteric’? Gerrup outta that. What do you even mean by ‘esoteric’? They’ve got beats, they’ve got grooves, they’ve got killer hooks and melodies; it doesn’t require that much thought really. The music moves you or it doesn’t. The music is only esoteric as long as there are people like you to maintain that it is. You’re worse than the plastic fans that you came here to call out.

  21. The greatest trick Deakin ever pulled was convincing the world he wasn’t Lil B

  22. This album takes time, folks. I know a lot of people who only got into Animal Collective because of the radio and user friendliness of Merriweather Post Pavilion. This is a completely different beast but in the best way possible. I’m absolutely in love with it.

  23. This albums sounds like the flowering of some beautiful mental illness.

  24. I keep trying to listen to this but all I can hear is the album cover.

  25. Ben Allen is a genius. I wish he could go back in time and produce all the other Collective albums, too.

    Moonjock is in my opinion the best song they’ve ever written. A shifting, pump your fist yet contemplative song about road trips with a huge pop chorus.

  26. reviews all around: it is an album with some good songs and some not so good songs. not their best, not their worst, centipede HZ

  27. Let’s go ahead and nail this down now: Grizzly Bear’s Shields is going to kick this album in the dick

  28. // “Amanita” closes that world: The sound literally melts apart at the end, fitting for a song named for an extremely lethal mushroom often mistaken for the psychedelic one.” //

    The muscaria species of amanita, of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ fame, is indeed a psychedelic mushroom:
    http://www.erowid.org/plants/amanitas/amanitas.shtml

  29. Call me crazy, but this album is just kind of jarring to me. I loved Strawberry Jam, Person Pitch, and MPP obviously, but this really borders on almost unlistenable. I feel like that may or may not be the elephant in the room that people are afraid to admit. While the songwriting on those other albums was near flawless, Centipede Hz just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in that department and the production at the moment is too jarring for me to try to listen again.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • I feel you, but I disagree. When I first started listening, the songs seemed a bit busy and simultaneously formless. However, once I started learning the structures of the tunes and even read the lyrics while they were sung, I have found the album to be much more accessible than I first thought. So, this seems to be a case of repeated listenings yielding pleasant (or euphoric!) results.

    • You know, I just got into Anco four months ago. What you describe here is exactly what I thought of MPP after the first listen. Now that everyone of you has listened to it 300+ times, you know where you have to listen, what the harmonies are, etc… I honestly think most of us, after some time with CHz, will have deciphered the production and could get to the core of each song. Not that the production’s bad, really. It’s just challenging. Anyway, IMO. :)

    • Gonna go back. Maybe it’s just not my thing.

      • I really think ‘borders on unlistenable’ is a bit strong. I’ve justed finished my first listen through and am, more than anything, relieved.

        I got this record in the post this morning (avoided the leak as I wanted a high-quality, almost ceremonious first listen-through), and put off listening until about midnight, partially due to my banging headache (all the reviews talk about how abrasive CHZ is!) and partially because I really REALLY didn’t want to be disappointed. I started playing it absolutely accepting that I could very well not like it at all, but I’ve loved it.

        To me, the dense production is an album trait which gives it its own character, and with a high-quality format, all the sounds are distinct from one another, which makes me look forward to dissecting all the individual nuances for many repeat listens to come. Give it a few listens, hopefully you’ll find some things you like.

  30. @ Stereogum: Why is the comment + picture that I posted yesterday still awaiting moderation? Thanks.

  31. Still waiting for my art book from Africa, Deakin! Just because Wide Eyed is a great song doesn’t mean I’m not waiting for it!

  32. I really hate trying to like an album… There just isn’t enough variation! With music that sounds like this you have to employ some dynamics. It is the same fast bouncy tempo throughout & whatever semblance of a melody is never resolved. AND am I the only one who thinks Strawberry Jam is clearly the best AC album??

  33. On first listen, the only thing harder to follow than this album is this comment section.

  34. Waiting until a higher quality rip surfaces on the web (what everybody is listening to now is taken just from the stream) but for the moment, this is a highly enjoyable but sort of unremarkable entry in the band’s discography. They had lot to live up to with Feels, Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion being their last LPs but I can’t help but think that if another group like MGMT or of Montreal had released a nearly identical album, the hype wouldn’t be in their favour and the album wouldn’t be nearly as well received as it is now.

    Centipede Hz needs a few more listens but IMO, the album complements AC’s catalog the same way that Age of Adz complements Sufjan Steven’s catalog: by serving an over-the-top follow-up to a universally praised and more accessible record; one that offers moments of brilliance but that lacks the consistency and variety of the artist’s prior efforts.

  35. A slight (and admittedly irrelevant) correction: Amanita muscaria is *usually* not poisonous. Neither is it really a true psychedelic. The Amanita is instead a deliriant. It completely erodes the conceptual frameworks from which the mind builds reality. The effect is sometimes described as a waking dream, but it can also involve dislocated thought processes, confusion, verbal incoherency, inability to recognize people you know and even complete dissolution of the sense of “self” (not knowing who you are or where you are).

    Given what I’ve heard from this new AC album, I’d say the metaphor fits nicely.

  36. “It rouses as much as it flattens you — the sonic equivalent to having both ADD and claustrophobia.”

    http://ludditestereo.net/2012/09/11/centipede-hz-animal-collective-album-review/

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