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Animal Collective @ Union Transfer with Ratking.

February 23, 2016

RK_ANIMAL COLLECTIVE_UT_021916_010Text and images by Rick Kauffman.

The bouncy, effervescent sounds of Animal Collective dripped, oozed and submerged listeners at Union Transfer Friday night. The show, which was sold out for months, was the first stop on a worldwide tour in support of Painting With, which dropped the same day.

AC has become a band with fans who will not only avoid videos of live shows online, but they will abstain from listening to a new album before seeing it performed. For those who anticipate their local show with great fervor, read no further.

Lined behind eyeball-centric monoliths and Easter Island-themed stone heads that warped and spiraled into oblivion amidst a surreal and fantastical light show, Animal Collective fostered a visually and aurally submersive experience Friday. Like Kraftwerk, who perform behind modular posts, the AC performers tweaked, fiddled, stuttered and sang behind transmorphic podiums that ebbed and flowed from the spiraling front-screen projector. Armed to the teeth with custom designed electronic equipment, backed by a touring drummer, the band laid heavy into the new jams in a show that was like a DJ-set of tracks, transitioning from one jam to an interlude to the next, drawing listeners into a drone-like trance of bright and sunny psychedelia.

After the uptempo opener ‘Natural Selection,’ the second song of both the set and the album, ‘Hocus Pocus,’ laid down thumping bass in a dancy marching rhythm. ‘The Burglars’ had a drum track laid down like the constant pattern played by the Beatles’ Ringo Starr in ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ on Revolver. Through the entirety of the set, the heavy bass laid fierce jungle-like beats which had the capacity crowd squeezed onto the ground floor bouncing in sync.

What one takes away from both their album records and live show is the fullness of their sound — making the room thick with tone. They even played ‘Alvin Row’ from the the band’s debut release Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, which predates the band’s moniker itself. According to a Reddit sleuth, this was the first time they’ve ever performed the track.

After the popularity of Merriweather Post Pavilion jettisoned the Baltimore-formed band into the stratosphere in 2009, they’ve become a top-billed act the world over. MPP was their poppiest and most accessible album to date, while managing to maintain their signature feel. The harmonies between singer/producers Avey Tare and Panda Bear create this back-and-forth juxtaposition of discordant, disjointed jibberish. While the delved back into the deeply obscure in their last release Centipede Hz, of which they didn’t perform a track from on Friday, their new release constitutes a shift back to the straight-forward and poppy hits that made MPP so popular, although the Pitchfork reviews aren’t as favorable this time around.

Avey Tare, otherwise David Portner, uses two mics to overdub his sung vocals often creating this broken and disjointed multi-tiered vocal effect, while Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) utilizes an echo-y, bouncy vocal style that has a dreamy lustre that is similarly mirrored in his solo venture.

The Geologist, who in his human form is known as Brian Ross Weitz, runs the sound manipulators and tracks the samples for the band, and is named for the headlamp he wears throughout the set. He said in an interview in The Observer that he and bandmates would meet in Philly before heading on tour. A self-proclaimed Philadelphian, referring to it as one of his childhood homes, it’s fitting the band chose the city to start off their 50-stop tour here.

Absent from the current album and tour is founding member Deakin (Joshua Dibbs), who split before the release of MPP, but had returned for Centipede Hz, which saw the band leave behind the pop sound for a return to their experimental roots. Painting With represents a return to the sound that made MPP so popular; the live show expands on their ever-evolving theatricality.

The Painting With tour will bring them pond-hopping from the continental US to Belgium and the Netherlands, and then back the states before returning to Spain, Portugal and the UK through September.

Opener Ratking was the perfect hype-up band to open for the nearly two-hour set by Animal Collective. The NYC-based hip hop group featured three vocalists—one of whom runs the sampling and beat-making with a combo mixer and percussion-based drum pad—along with a keyboardist and a saxophonist. They created a layer that melded classical and jazz-influence high tones with double and triple-time trap beats. A pit opened up during their last song, which was a solid prelude to the dance-centric set that followed.

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