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CENTIPEDE Hz is the tenth full length Animal Collective album following the widely celebrated Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) and also the first since Strawberry Jam (2007) to feature all four original band members: Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin. As the album’s opening bars of drum crashes and radio interference on ‘Moonjock’ immediately make clear, having returned as a four piece, Animal Collective have made their most widescreen and fully realized music to date.
Once touring for Merriweather Post Pavilion was concluded at the end of 2009, Animal Collective released their visual album Oddsac on DVD. The film was also screened internationally at theatres and film festivals. The band created Transverse Temporal Gyrus, an installation for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and subsequently released a 12” single of the performance and launched a website to distribute music from the event. The period between Merriweather Post Pavilion and Centipede Hz also saw the release of two solo albums: Avey Tare’s Down There (2010) and Panda Bear’s Tomboy (2011).
Regrouping as a four piece with original member Deakin once more in the band, Animal Collective reconvened in their native Baltimore in January-March 2011 to write material for Centipede Hz with a further session later in the year. Rather than swapping ideas over the internet and file-sharing Animal Collective were, for the first time in many years, exchanging ideas in the same room by playing live instruments. As a result Panda Bear returned to playing a sit-down drum kit for the first time since Here Comes The Indian (2003) and Geologist began playing live keyboards again. Along with using some of the samplers and sequencers with which they had previously been writing, the sound of Centipede Hz draws on the dynamics and energy of Animal Collective playing together as a band. The return of Deakin is at its most marked in ‘Wide Eyed’, a song that he wrote, featuring his first ever lead-vocal performance and whose title captures the mood of Centipede Hz perfectly.
Part of the inspiration for Centipede Hz included the band’s memories of growing up listening to station announcements and commercials on the radio and imagining 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. This is reflected in the sound of Centipede Hz, which features the white noise of radio interference and buried frequencies overlaid with the band’s peerless melodic sensibilities and compositional methods. The result is a panoramic set of songs that shimmer with the confidence and wonder of Animal Collective’s unique inner logic and the luminous warmth of their sound world.
I never felt American until I left the United States. In 2007 I went to Europe for the first time to tour in support of Spiderman of the Rings. At the time I, like many other young Americans, didn’t identify as “American.” The United States was an evil, Earth-destroying monster of war, corporate greed and bigotry. I had been touring for years in the DIY scene, trying to live apart from consumer culture, feeling detached from what I thought of as the American lifestyle. But when I left for Europe, I was slammed into reality. Never before had I felt so much like an outsider. I was alone in foreign lands with no friends. While it was a beautiful experience and a great tour, I realized that no matter which subculture I chose to identify or what kind of lifestyle I led I would always be American. Nothing could ever change that. As simple as that idea seems, it was a massive shift in consciousness for me.
When I was writing Bromst, I wanted a title with no pre-existing meaning, something free of any prior associations. For this album, I wanted the exact opposite. America is a word with an infinite range of connotations, both positive and negative. Even its literal definition is open to discussion. In using it as the title of the album, in a small way, I‘m contributing to the discussion. To me, the underground DIY and wilderness are just as American as their evil brethren, corporatism and environmental destruction. It‘s that juxtaposition of fundamentally opposed ideologies that makes up the American landscape.
Compositionally, America is layering of dichotomies: light and dark, acoustic and synthetic, celebration and contemplation. The result can be heard as simple or complex depending on how one listens to it. The music is rooted in triadic harmony set to a fixed pulse while the individual lines are complex, phasing layers of sound. The outcomes are dense asymmetrically rhythmic phrases of textured patterns framed as pop songs.
The inspiration for the music was my love of cross-country travel, seeing the landscapes of the United States, going from east to west and back again over the course of seasons. The lyrics are inspired by my frustration, fear and anger towards the country and world I live in and am a part of. As I came closer to finishing the album these themes began to show themselves more frequently and greater clarity. There seemed no better world to encapsulate both inspirations than the simple beauty found in the word America.
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