The four-years-in-the-making Animal Collective film, Oddsac, will screen at International House on April 16th. The band is scheduled to attend for a post-screening Q&A. The film premiered at Sundance and screened at NYC’s School of The Visual Arts last night. We were in attendance and boy are our synapses tired! Dense, non-linear, lo-fi and head-fuckingly psychedelic, the 60-minute film is eminently reflective of the scary-beautiful soul of their music. As you read this, Animal Collective is in the middle of two three-hour performances at the Whitney as part of an art installation. Local angle: Oddsac was directed by Philly homeboy Danny Perez, parts of the film were shot at Hickory Run State Park, and Geologist (AKA Brian Weitz) grew up in Upper Dublin. Yo, Philly represent!
PREVIOUSLY: Back in college, which was longer ago than I care to admit, so let[s just say some time after the Earth cooled but before the Internet, I lived in an old Victorian house that the college owned and subdivided into separate apartments. It was a gathering house for all the freaks and geeks who didn’t quite blend in with the frat-boy-cheerleader-chug-a-lug-date-rape ethos of the main campus. Across the hall my neighbors had set up a de facto commune of 24/7 hacky-sack drum-circling and druggy bird-dogging. Most of the guys living there weren’t even enrolled. They all had sophomoric stoner-rific nicknames — Andy Crack, Stinker, Wild Bill, Bleep — and they all looked like they lived underwater.
Almost nobody knew how to play an instrument, but these guys were gonna start a band. ‘Whatever you say, Hippie Pants,’ I thought to myself. They were gonna call themselves the Gooney Birds after the sheet of primo blotter they’d scored at a recent Dead show. While I went to classes, these guys woodshedded day and night, nourished only by an Evian bottle filled to the brim with liquid LSD. By the end of the semester the bottle was empty and these guys were making some of the most jaw-droppingly mesmerizing folk-based psych I’d ever heard. They sounded like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey looks. Fuck me, I thought. It’s like they mutated a couple steps up the food chain.
I can’t help but think something similar happened to the men of Animal Collective during their formative years. They’ve known each other since high school. They all have stoner-rific nicknames: Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Geologist, Deaken. From the sound of things, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they too had a private stock of that Evian elixir when they first took up instruments. Nine albums into their career, Animal Collective have become a cause celebre among the freak-folk meritocracy, creating some of the most stunningly original and indescribably otherworldly music since, well, the acid hit the punk rock some time around the Meat Puppets‘ Up on the Sun and Husker Du’s Flip Your Wig.
When it comes to pedigree, Animal Collective cover their paw tracks with six degrees of sonic separation, mutating sound over and over again until it sounds quite ordinary — if you live on Neptune. And they have two great tricks that can’t be easily dismissed: First, they somehow make music that continues to morph even when it’s set in stone on CD. (I’ve listened to Feels about 18 zillion times, and I swear to God not one nanosecond of it ever sounds the same twice.) Second, their unwavering refusal to be serious is what makes them so profound. — JONATHAN VALANIA