BATTLES / ANIMAL COLLECTIVE LIVE
Although I was wondering what the hell was going on the first time I played an Animal Collective album (Campfire Songs), I very quickly realised that this was no ordinary band. Since, they have continued to deliver the goods with each new album, seemingly ploughing the same groove, but each time with different tools and in a totally new way. Somehow though, I’ve managed to miss them every single time they’ve come to London, and they have been rather generous with their visits. After seeing that they were due to come to London again, at the Astoria, some time ago on the Fat-Cat website, and subsequently being reminded by Andrew a few weeks ago, we decided that whatever happened, this time we would go. Scott and his girlfriend (who I cannot remember the name just now and am mortified of it) joined us.
Adem, who was/is in Fridge with Kieran Hebden, was due to play tonight but ended up not to. On the bill though was Battles. Andrew had seen them live before and has been raving about their live performances for a fair while now, and although I was only tepid about the compilation of EPs that was released on Warp a few months ago, seeing them live offered a totally different angle to what they can do.
Crammed in a tiny space at the front of the stage, the keyboard player, guitarist and bass player seemed strategically positioned around the drummer, as to freely feed from the vast amount of energy exulting from this most focal of points. The band’s hypnotic post rock thing felt a lot more organic and raw than what I’d heard of them previously. It was interesting to see the constant exchange happening between the four members during their set, and how together they appeared. There were some wonderful moments when time felt suspended while they were weaving increasingly tight loops and grooves together into trance-like structures.
As far as this evening was concerned though, the piece de resistance was always going to be Animal Collective, and boy did they deliver. The set was largely centred around Feels, with Grass, The Purple Bottle, Did You See The Words and Banshee Beat making particularly lively appearances. Yet, if Feels is most definitely the Collective’s most accessible record by a mile, it is when they dabble in primal trance and febrile drones that they are at their most mind-blowing. Cast against the poppier songs of their repertoire were intense sonic experimentations build around dense electronic structures and hypnotic drums, sometimes simply linking two songs, at others just left to develop to full motion, progressively bringing the crowd on the brink of ecstasy before dropping us back down to earth with a deceptively simple pop melody.
Animal Collective have provided me with some of the best and most exhilarating music I’ve heard for years, and this gig at the Astoria certainly didn’t disappoint. There could have some more of the iridescence of Here Comes The Indian or the subdued lights of Sung Tong for instance, but in tonight’s incarnation (full Collective on stage), they have achieve near perfect balance between experiments and catchy moments.
Animal Collective please, go on Top Of The Pops and save the world!