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A Magazine for Sheffield

Centipede Hz

Following weeks of radio mixes, covertly featuring guest DJs and new tracks, New York's avant-folk bandits turned synth wizards Animal Collective have launched Centipede Hz, their first full-length in four years. It is alive and streaming; the first time the band have diverged from what band-member Geologist described as a romantic loyalty to the non-digital simplicity of the physical release date.

The album is streaming in video format, making the band's analogue tapestry inextricable from its melting psychedelic face, courtesy of artist Abby Portner. This indirectly emphasises arguably the best aspect of the band's current identity - that you have no idea who's doing what and how. I challenge anyone to fully dissect any of the tracks on Centipede Hz into rigid, compartmentalised band members or sounds. That's why I've hesitated to label Geologist as anything other than a 'band member'. Aside the distinctive vocal stylings of Avey Tare and Panda Bear, little else is immediately attributable to individuals, as all four band members play samplers and percussion alongside their respective instruments. The result is a writhing cacophony of analogue squelches and blurts, at times referencing their Sung Tongs era anti-folk, but largely working within the synth and sampler set up they've pioneered in recent years.

One feature that marks Centipede Hz different is the use of 'radio conjoiners' that transcend track divisions. Inspired by Avey Tare's brother Dave - once a successful commercial DJ - the conjoiners reference the Animal Collective radio initiative that led up to the album stream, whilst also capturing the band's interwoven live shows in which the music ebbs and flares continuously. On record, these sonic abstractions, which swallow up the melodies they sandwich, continue an tension pervasive in much of the band's work: the tug-of-war between melodic frivolity and underlying sinisterness. This tension complicates cascading chord changes that sometimes threaten to sound cheesy-grinned, such as in 'Amania' and 'Applesauce', and generates wondrous moments such as the grim laughter that spirals into the maddening loop of "Feel Good!" at the end of 'Wide Eyed'. It's nothing less than thrilling, though not what you'd quite expect to be heard on Radio 4.

Early highlights plucked from the multi-legged musical scuttle of Centipede Hz include 'New Town Burnout', the barn-storming opening duo of 'Moonjock', single 'Today's Supernatural', and 'Wide Eyed'. Ultimately, however, all but the foolish would expect this to stay the same for long. With an album so dense with divergent melodies and rustling textures, Centipede Hz is one for the long haul.