Right now, thousands of giant radio telescopes all over the planet are constantly listening for signs of life elsewhere in the universe. At the same time, countless radio stations all over the globe are broadcasting the diverse sounds of thousands of different types of music on hundreds of radio frequencies at all times, all over the world. Imagine that an alien civilization was searching for signs of intelligent life in the same way we are.
This is what Animal Collective’s “Centipede Hz” (that’s Hertz) sounds like. In fact, the concept is one of the influences of the album. Even the album art represents the garbled overload in the music world. Now, try to imagine that some outgoing punk extraterrestrials tried to recreate some of the music they heard.
These alien hipsters must have picked up transmissions of quirky and original yet popular bands of the last 10 years. Similarities to bands like MGMT, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells and even Coldplay are evident. In addition, there must have been an 80s station aimed directly at this group of music pioneers. Fans of bands like Depeche Mode, Talk Talk and Pink Floyd would recognize familiar styles in this album.
All comparisons aside, Animal Collective has been continually concocting their own sound for 13 years across 9 studio albums. The band has been lauded for their psychedelic yet organic and fluid experimental sounds. Old fans will not be disappointed with this offering, and new listeners may be attracted to this albums more straightforward rock sound.
This follow up to the critically acclaimed “Merriweather Post Pavillion” keeps the electronic feel of the previous album, but the meandering, ambient feel of many of their previous works has been traded in for a more internally consistent, directed and intentional feel throughout the album. The whole experience is held together by the sounds of radio announcers, interference and ethereal sounds jumbled together, fading in and out between each song.
The first listen of the new album is difficult. New sounds along with a unique and chaotic instrumentation and a questionable mix of each sonic voice at the same level in the foreground make for a difficult album to listen to. Driving drums, whirring synths and swirling vocals create an overwhelming wall of sound that becomes almost cacophonous, making it nearly impossible to listen to in the background – it demands attention. However, further and more careful listens will reveal a very detailed, deep and skilled arrangement.
The opening track “Moonjock” wastes no time as it crashes on with industrial hits that soon give way to a more upbeat and playful pop sound. The next track and single of the album, “Today’s Supernatural” is much a more stripped down and direct rock song. Some of it is reminiscent of raw punk bands like Refused. The fourth song, “Applesauce,” is the most similar to the band’s previous work, with sliding vocals and a slower, wandering feel.
The rest of the album calms down with a more traditional electronica style with an anthem-like delivery. Consistent, yet repetitive sounds in each song remain interesting and engaging as each song has a very unique and separate feel.
The whole album displays a youthful, wide-eyed innocence and outright disregard for the expectations and rules, but the performance still manages to remain skilled and purposeful. The band has continued to refine it’s sound, and it’s unlikely that they will slow down or settle in any time soon.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5