Published Aug 12, 2012How do you follow an album like Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion? Praised for its next-level advancement of both the electronic and pop genres, it topped almost every year-end list in 2009. The task would be an unnerving one for any average band, but for Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Geologist and Deakin, it was just business as usual.
"As creative people we're pretty restless," says Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear. "We don't like to stick with the same way of doing things or the same set of instruments, the same gear."
For the last decade, Animal Collective have been producing their bewildering yet singular sounds with an agenda to consistently push the envelope. Their tenth, Centipede Hz, continues to move things forward.
Back to a four-piece after guitarist Josh Dibb (Deakin) temporarily departed following commitments to 2007's Strawberry Jam, his return stimulated a move towards writing and recording using a live band mindset. Lennox, for example, got behind the drum kit for the first time since 2003's Here Comes the Indian.
"We were all excited about doing something more physical and performance based," Lennox explains. "The last album, we would do shows and I would come off stage without even breaking a sweat. It was all just manipulating sequences of sounds, and a lot more in the fingers than in the mind. So we wanted to do something more visceral this time around."
They also brought with them a widescreen concept. Described as their attempt to imagine "the after life of radio signals from the past, forgotten transmissions that are now lost in space and broadcasting music from other planets for other life forms," the four members used fond memories of their formative years growing up in Baltimore, listening to late night radio commercials and station IDs as a starting point.
"It's pretty typical for us to have a bunch of ideas and images when we begin writing our songs," Lennox says. "I feel like ballet was something we talked about a lot with Merriweather Post Pavilion, but I don't know if that vibe was felt on the other end. The radio frequencies and transmissions just sort of floating around in space, bouncing around was inspiring for us."
Every Animal Collective recording could convince someone of extraterrestrial activity caught on tape, though Centipede Hz understandably takes the cake. From the threaded radio interference running throughout to the vivid, pixelated hooks, rippling sequencers and charged instrumentation, they have delivered an album that is out of this world.
"It's kind of silly to talk about, but we were throwing around the idea that there could be this alien band hearing bits of sound coming from the earth, and then thinking about what sounds an alien band would make," Lennox says. "We were trying to push the songs in that direction where something was familiar, but also tweaked to sound foreign and alien. In the space of about 10 or 15 seconds there are a bunch of sounds smashed up against each other, rapid fire, and that was something we were all psyched on."