Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Album review: Animal Collective - 'ODDSAC' (Plexifilm)
Set to weird out their newest fans, the band's audio/visual colloboration is a gloriously rich, but very freaky feast
So when a band starts blathering excitedly about their forthcoming “experimental visual project”, you’d be forgiven for not clearing room in your Sunday night viewing schedule (especially not if there’s a particularly racy episode of Lark Rise To Candleford on telly). ODDSAC, however, is that rare beast, an “experimental visual project” that’s well worth your full attention.
Concocted by Animal Collective in cahoots with long-time video collaborator Danny Perez, ODDSAC is a 53-minute blend of ‘live action’ (ie, weird-looking people mucking about in the woods) and full-on kaleidoscopic freakiness, designed to evoke the lysergic bewilderment of the UFO Club circa 1967, when Pink Floyd would receive equal billing with the latest Kenneth Anger film and a machine projecting giant psychedelic blobs onto the ceiling.
Crucially, the music here isn’t a meandering indulgence but instead involves some of the best and most direct songs Animal Collective have ever written. Certainly there are protracted periods of feral squawking that will scare off casual purchasers of ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ but there are also moments of tender, rapturous loveliness that can currently only be heard while watching a hairy creature in a medieval robe washing dinosaur eggs near a waterfall.
Folksy laments lather up gradually into trademark Technicolor trance-outs as the film assaults your retinas with barrages of blistered colour and purple interference. There are times when ODDSAC is pretty silly – you half expect Old Gregg to rise out of a lake and flash you his mangina – and times when its sheer sensory overload makes you feel a bit sick. But there are also moments of serene beauty, such as when
a bedraggled vampire character rows his boat purposefully through the night to the accompaniment of a beautifully dolorous ‘Pet Sounds’ homage voiced by Panda Bear, or when a kid resembling an extra from Gummo darts back and forth across a vast, desolate field of rocks setting up a primitive drumkit. As soon as Gummo kid hits the snare, the music switches suddenly from a pretty ambient trickle to a galloping groove.
Later, ODDSAC acquires the tension of a shlocky slasher movie as the sinister rowboat vampire advances stealthily towards
a family enjoying an innocent campfire in the woods. What happens next will make you think twice about eating toasted marshmallows again any time soon, although the evil oarsman gets his messy comeuppance as the sun rises. ODDSAC ends, as more films should, with some pretty girls having a food fight. A catchy ‘Peacebone’-style number sends them all dancing off into the fields, confused and caked in unidentifiable goo, but happy nonetheless.
If you’re looking for a meaning or a moral, then you’ve probably got the wrong film, and you’ve certainly got the wrong band. ODDSAC seems pretty true to the Animal Collective creed as developed across their previous eight albums: vivid, woozy wonderment that lurches from chaos to queasiness to euphoria.
At a time when even the interesting pop videos seem designed cynically to shock (hello, MIA), titillate (hello, Gaga) or show how clever they are on their way to becoming a fleeting viral sensation (hello, er, Ok Go), it’s refreshing to find a music film where the primary concern is that it looks cool when you’re stoned.
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