The song of an air chrysalis

Centipede HZ

Animal Collective

Domino, WIGCD274, £8.99

Here comes the sunshine. Animal Collective’s ninth studio album glistens with a cheerful daffodil-yellow light. Where Swans excavate the viscera of a blasted life AC have a tendency to dance, cavort, wheel around the brighter reaches of a green and pleasant land. At their best, on albums such as ‘Here Comes the Indian’, they combine a super-abundance of musical skill, vision and inventiveness to provide a fairy link between electronica and Ligeti, Lutoslawski, et al. Looped and looping layers of noise – instrumental, electronic, found, manufactured and vocal – are woven into a discursive and harmoniously percussive whole. ‘Centipede HZ’ spins back and forth building sonic shapes that are compulsive, frenetic but never frantic. Its tracks are more easily definable as songs then on some previous albums but they never conform to a traditional song structure, playing with form and distorting sounds, voices, beats and rhythm to create a tightly balanced musical tension, a tautness that feels always about to spring out of total control but which never, quite, does.

Naturalistic sounds are integral to the mix – running water on ‘Pulleys’, the sound of the forest elsewhere. There is a shamanistic, almost animistic tread to their beat, a sense of earth worship, or earth consciousness that slinks, gurgles and bubbles through the album. Added to this are the high pitched vocals and vocal harmonies that heighten a sense of ritual longing and liminal reverence. If this is music for worship then it is worship of a deity that pervades every breath of life, that lives in each and every cell, molecule and mitochondria. The outside is brought inside and interior thoughts, the ramblings of creative minds, are turned widdershins with time twisting, Mobius-like, back in on itself.

‘Centipede HZ’ slices and re-splices reality in a hyper-heightening way that makes it the perfect sound track for reading Murakami. Both AC and Murakami give us a new way of seeing, or hearing the world that sharpens our perspective by allowing that the empirical is only one way of observing the actuality of actuality. But this is also disingenuous – Murakami’s novels like ‘Centipede HZ’ are so full of intensely crafted layers of meaning that each should be concentrated on solely, without distraction, to allow the beauty of their vision to unfold slowly, deliciously, languorously in a metamorphosis of being. Listen to this album over and over, let it slide into your unconscious until you perceive afresh the materials of existence.


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