Animal Collective w/ Circuit Des Yeux
@ The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
May 28, 2017
It’s totally groan-inducing, but for fifteen years now the oxymoronic notion of “experimental pop” has acted as the adobe slab for Animal Collective’s music. The absurdity doesn’t stop there, though. In fact, the closer you look, the more antinomy you’ll find: gleeful noise; ultramodern tribalism; nostalgic adulthood.28heir recent slump, if that’s what you want to call the messy Centipede Hz (2012) and hyphenated Painting With (2016), can be attributed to two phenomena: the media craze surrounding 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, a spectacle that betrayed their 7-album run of cabalistic Sun City Girls/Stereolab/Pavement synthesis, and second, the flourishing solo careers of Avey Tare and Panda Bear which, during the album-interim, dissipated their creative energies in the best possible way—by producing good music. What their slump cannot be attributed to is faithfulness to a paradoxical sonic recipe.
Their 2017 tour is part history lesson, part dance class. After 30 minutes of intensity from Indiana’s Circuit Des Yeux, AnCo opened up shop by balancing two new numbers, “Kinda Bonkers” and “Lying in the Grass”, with fan favourites “Taste” and “Guys Eyes”.
The radically reworked version of 2005’s “Bees”, featuring a trance-beat substrate, swung the show into its strong closing half. A trio of “Kids on Holiday”, “Summing the Wretch” and the still way too giddy “FloriDada” wrapped the set, each with long, groove-laden transitions between them.
Avey Tare’s sister, Abbey Portner, who does set-design and lights for AnCo’s shows, put a little something extra into the final three tracks, which included streaming bubbles over the standing-crowd’s heads (unless I hallucinated that?).
The foursome barely set foot offstage when the clamour for an encore rose, ready to sustain itself for as long as would be necessary. Five minutes was all it took.
They played “Peacemaker” to start, then a polyphonic “The Burglars”, and finally, as if inflating a cosmic beach-ball, dousing the room in lemonade, and cranking the A/C to max, revived “Summertime Clothes”—the most cathartic song AnCo has penned, die-hards be damned.
After a “Don’t cool off / I like-a your warmth” the group temporarily collapsed the song, indulging in sustained electro-improv, before returning with an affirmative yet yearning, “I want to walk around with you / Just you, just you, just you, just you…”
Animal Collective on-record may be dwindling, but in the flesh, in surging synths, in hammering drums, in screaming harmony, they thrive. To dub this the “best concert experience of my life” would be a little ridiculous, but I guess that’s the point.
(Photography by Justin Martin)