Thursday, July 12, 2007

Animal Collective – Coronet, Elephant & Castle 11/07/07

If their forthcoming album suggests that Baltimore’s reliably eccentric -noise pop adventurers are reigning in the mayhem, there’s little sign tonight that they’ve lost any of their gleeful sense of adventure. Certainly, ‘Strawberry Jam’ errs towards more traditional and concise structures. Gone are the epic 15-minute excursions into the wilder recesses of the collective's brain, replaced by a new found sense of restraint, the longest track peaking at just under seven minutes.

That's not to suggest they've turned into The Fratellis overnight - they’re still capeable of wigging out and howling like banshees over a cacophonous mixture of electronics and guitars. And that’s perhaps why it’s so surprising that they can fill venues like the Astoria and tonight's 2,200 capacity Coronet without comprising their signature esoteric sound. Maybe it's their knack for balancing a pop sensibility with experimentalism that draws in such a varied fanbase. The regular assortment of straight up indie-kids, older avant-garde types and hardcore scenesters are all present this evening - eyes glazed, staring at the band, heads feverishly nodding.

Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist - resembling a trio of stoned Beach Boys circa 'Surf's Up' - take to the stage just after 10pm, mysteriously lacking guitarist Deakin. But this doesn't hold them back as all three take to their banks of kit and wring from their machines a mesmerising set, incorporating a sizable portion of the new album alongside old favourites like “Who Can Win A Rabbit” and “Grass”.

Strangely, there’s no live instrumentation this evening bar a couple of keyboards and a cymbal crash shared by Mr. Bear and Tare but those guitar sounds are coming from somewhere, perhaps from Geologist's bank of noises. In fact, it's this approach that makes them resemble more of a knob-twiddling techno outfit than an indie / noise band, emphasised as an array of percussive noises are looped into a swirling 4/4 beat for what seems like the majority of the performance. This driving rhythm is offset nicely by their three-part vocal harmonies, trademark screeching feedback and all manner of other melodic delights, to whip up a wondrous psych-out which lasts most of the evening.

With Domino behind the new album a new legion of fans may be about to stumble across Animal Collective’s raucous invention – next stop Brixton Academy? They’ll most likely remain far too willful a proposition for that level of success and that’s probably how it should be. Long may we cherish these mavericks.

Justin Steele

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