Refusing to Crossover

It’s been a strange sight in recent years to witness formerly under the radar artists making (comparatively) big critical and commercial splashes. Though Ariel Pink was perhaps the biggest surprise, Animal Collective’s commercial appeal, on the back of band member Panda Bear’s Pitchforky smash Person Pitch, has been growing larger and larger over the past few years. Tom Ewing reviews their latest album with this tension between experiment and success in mind, and finds the band cleaving to the former:

There are really two Animal Collective stories. There’s the band’s hopscotch artistic development – a self-confessed desire to never make the same record twice – which has led them through 15 years of campfire meditations, clattering psychedelia, cacophonic noise-pop and a host of other spliced genres. In parallel to this is a more linear growth in cult and cultural status, with each new release winning more converts. The upshot is that Animal Collective – from their start as childhood friends making weirdo music together each summer – have become a major band by stealth.



Centipede Hz ends on a high with the grand Amanita, which sees the band rushing gleefully back into the forest for fresh inspiration: “I’m gonna come back and things will be different/ I’m gonna bring back some stories again.” It’s a promise of more delights to come, and a triumphant end to a tricky record. The crossover path between experimental voyagers and indie-rock darlings is well trodden, and from Spiritualized to Mercury Rev it’s studded with groups opting to refine their sound, not quest for a new one. It’s to Animal Collective’s credit that they haven’t taken this option. Centipede Hz sets them up well for the future, without always managing to satisfy in the present.

Published on 30 August 2012

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