ANIMAL COLLECTIVEEVOL and Harvest Sun @ O2 Academy
What you see is not what you get. The room is drenched as high-intensity washes of colour are projected over our heads onto a cartoonish stage with racks of synthesisers, drums and effects pedals. When the masses raise their arms overhead to welcome ANIMAL COLLECTIVE onstage, hands everywhere pierce those beams to see their skin dancing with pixelated bursts of light. From this sumptuous live show, to their habit of wrapping their albums in op art, the visual element is as much a part of this band as their densely layered music. Considering they’ve been featured in the Wire magazine, strip away most of those layers and what you get is a core of catchy melodic pop. That’s the payload, and the noisy experimentation on top, like the visuals, is a means of delivery.
It’s telling that, after a shaky first act, FLORIDADA emerges as the most bangworthy tune despite being rather mildly received as a single. The set is heavy on material from February’s Painting With, but, by running songs into each other in three sets, they generate enough atmosphere to keep everyone’s attention. Within the confines of each song, they’re on form – it’s the experimental segues that seem unfocused, like they aren’t all quite sure where they’re moving to next. That said, there are moments – a vocal harmony or a drop here and there – which really are touchstones. And they work so hard, if the gyrations of Geologist’s headtorch are anything to go by. I’ll say this once and once only: it’s a shame they couldn’t have done this in The Kazimier.
There are very few cuts from classic albums Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion tonight until a strong encore of Baby Day (inspiring fond memories of a Liverpool appearance with Four Tet 10 years ago), The Purple Bottle, and Daily Routine. All the Animal Collective prerequisites are there: bouncing rhythms, vocals that sound like the jungle at dawn, and lysergic patterns of rococo sound on top of everything. You could call it the Beach Boys on acid, if the Wilson brothers hadn’t beaten them to it. A Jackson Pollock or a technicolour yawn? Impossible to say, but you’d have to be trying pretty hard not to enjoy a trip to the zoo.