When Animal Collective conceived Centipede Hz. there was a great deal of chatter about creating something close and singular, an album that sounds alive. Moving away from the drifting transcendental melodies of Merriweather Post Pavillion towards something rooted, Animal Collective had big plans for the live show; they promised an ‘experience’. With a lot of bands, such spiel could easily be cast aside as nothing but hot air, but walking into the prodigious main space of The Roundhouse, it’s quickly apparent that Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Deakin and Geologist are fully invested. A looming, colour-changing tentacle of geometric shapes rises over the group, draped round and encompassing the entire stage. Animal Collective have transformed the space into a fantastical, spiraling Utopia of their own design, riddled with strange bloops and constantly modulating static. The trippy, psychedelic imagery from all those viral videos has been realised in a more tangible form. On their visuals alone, Animal Collective are already one of the most captivating and inventive thing we’ve seen live this year.
From within the jaws of the snaggleteeth lining the stage, material from Centipede Hz. naturally takes precedence, its immediacy even more noticeable in The Roundhouse. Tonight – although predominantly about the new – doesn’t seem like a hard sell. As Avey Tare’s vocals bubble and gargle their way through waves of blue lighting and shifting projection, ‘Rosie Oh’ is met rapturously. The rising swell of static on ‘Applesauce’ prompts a universal cheer across the crowd. It’s impossible to overstate the musical intricacies of what Animal Collective are rendering live – the closely woven melodies, the interdependent looping – yet watching them on stage it all seems naturally effortless. The mood of the room matches, too; it’s an easy-going yet completely mesmerised audience.
Once the band have the entire Roundhouse in a trance, they drop in single ‘Honeycomb’, the beautiful swirling primary colours of the vinyl projected across the entire spectacle. After an extended foray in the shape of a Scheherazade interlude from Panda Bear, the refrain begins; “Open up your throat.“ The room responds by way of transforming into something akin to a summer carnival, in direct jarring contrast to the bitter chill left forgotten outside the venue.
Animal Collective have a bit of a reputation for doing exactly what they want – that is, shunning all convention and abandoning ‘the hits’ approach. They’re viewed by some outside their inner-circle of obsessives as highbrow mavericks, artsy weirdoes with an impenetrable agenda. You could never draw that conclusion tonight. After wrapping up their set with the soaring melodies of ‘Peacebone’, Animal Collective amble off stage to applause that seems to go on forever. Deakin wanders back on. “Urm, I think we forgot to play a few” he grins, before moving over to his sound pad and producing a series of teasing static hints. ‘Cobwebs’ emerges from the sonic noise, before the tell-tale beginnings of ‘My Girl’ morph out of the residue. It is the moment of the night. Fully embracing their popularity , Animal Collective manage to be accessible yet perplexing, and, with such rich-pickings from their extensive back catalogue, they have never sounded more diverse. Visually, musically and atmospherically, tonight’s show is stunning.