Like observing a rainbow, or the site-specific sculpture art of the 1970s, Animal Collective’s is intrinsically subjective, defined by the unique perspective of each listener. ’s compositions are so intensely layered that each observer grasps hold of something different in the fray—perhaps it’s the pounding drums, or the wild, unhinged harmonies, or the orchestra of minute and sounds, all rolled into one living, breathing melody.

During ’s 2005 set, the crowd had a wildly varied response to material from 2001’s Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished. One fan stood transfixed, soaking up the crackling electronic cacophony, while the man next to him plugged his ears, actually in physical pain from the high pitched, jarring noises. The latter had to leave, unable to stand the sounds that had brought his companion joy. The rest of the crowd fell somewhere in between, but most were swaying and singing along to nonsensical lyrics and hypnotic wails. This diversity of responses is what makes the band’s blend of noise, freak-folk, and rock so innovative.

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lined the block outside the Neptune Theater Friday night, chatting excitedly about their favorite eras of the band. A car stopped at the light, and two guys tousled hair cranked the stereo, blasting “Who Could Win a Rabbit” from 2004’s Sung Tongs. The crowd cheered and the passengers danced in their seats. Once inside, the piped through the house speakers recalled the attendee’s strife eleven years prior. One particularly abrasive song had a repeating sample of a glass shattering. A woman in the crowd remarked, “I don’t like this . . . and it’s getting louder!” Her friend laughed in agreement, but it was only a taste of the strangeness in store. The stage was lined giant statues of abstracted faces, and a giant projector threw a wash of color over these figures and the band members’ consoles. are often labeled “experimental” for their wild sounds, but in addition, they’re an experiential band. To know them is to have experienced the odd and beautiful effect their music has on the psyche, when an otherwise aggravating or dissonant noise can inspire joy or reverence.

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The band members met at school in Baltimore, MD, and include (Avey Tare), (Panda Bear), (), and (Deakin). On stage Friday night, Lennox and Portner shared vocal harmonies, mixing, and keyboards, and Weitz added further , mixing, and vocals, melding disparate elements at a board overflowing with cables. He wore a headlamp to see his boards (the origin of his alias) and the light whirled around while he danced. As one song slowly morphed into the next, he bobbed his head to the oncoming beat, comically at odds with the tempo the crowd could still hear. It’s no small wonder that the members can keep their heads on straight while performing complex work.

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Dibb was absent from the stage, as he’s currently working on his first solo release as . This meant the band was unlikely to play anything from 2007’s Strawberry Jam, or fan favorite “Wide Eyed” from 2012’s Centipede Hz. The set was heavy with songs from Painting With, released mere weeks ago, peppered with a few tracks from 2005’s Feels (“Loch Raven,” “Bees”) and 2009’s (“Daily Routine”). Each of these earlier songs was met with a roar of approval from the crowd. Painting With takes the fearless complexity of Spirit, and updates it with the infectious pop sensibilities the band perfected on Merriweather with super-popular tracks like “My .” The new album is an exciting addition to an already colorful and nuanced discography.

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Despite their self-induced chaos, the band juggled completely disparate elements with poise and finesse. During “Summing the Wretch” from the new album, Portner and Lennox were able to stay in sync at breakneck speed, creating a stereo effect as notes -ponged back and forth between them. The drum timing changed frequently, making the mosh pit an entertaining sight as one jumping, flailing fan after another had to adjust their rhythm.

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“Daily Routine” began with a hint of organ notes in the silence. These sped up slowly until they spiraled majestically, filling the with an exultant array of cascading keys. Huge booms from a guest drummer lent a strong backbone, as Portner made syncopated hand claps into his mic. After a few verses from Lennox, the organ rocketed again, as projections transformed the room into a psychedelic, candy-colored cathedral. The organ cut out and an echoing, meditative guitar chord the emptiness, easing the room back into quiet reflection. The crowd was stunned.

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Openers Ratking from brought their blend of experimental hip hop, with influences as varied as , , and Trash Talk. Frontman Patrick “” Morales rapped with a confident cadence reminiscent of mid-’80s MCs, with -style backup vocals and keys from Eric “” Adiele. appeared to be mixing both the music and visuals . was very animated, jumping around while rapping impassioned lyrics. Plagued with technical difficulties halfway through “Piece of Shit,” he finished the song a capella, and the impressed crowd cheered him on. The night’s contrast in genres kept things interesting, and both acts shared the same innovative creativity.

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Though their studio albums are impressive sonic voyages, Animal Collective need to be seen . Here, it is the variety of listeners’ responses (whether to thrash around passionately, close their eyes, or sway lovingly) which gives meaning to the music. As with any avant-garde art, the work must be witnessed and interpreted by a myriad of perspectives in order to have a meaningful effect. With a captive audience at a sold out show on a rainy Friday night, Animal Collective were in their element.

:

Animal Collective:

Gnip Gnop
Vertical
Hocus Pocus
Golden Gal
The Burglars
Natural Selection
Loch Raven
On Delay
Bees
Summing the Wretch
FloriDada
– ENCORE –
Bagels in Kiev
Daily Routine
Alvin Row


Originally from San Francisco, CA, Victoria lives in Seattle, WA, and completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography at Seattle University. Her passion is making live music look as great as it sounds. She is the sole Seattle contributor for Live Music Blog, and her work has been featured in Seattle Music Insider, The Stranger, and Seattle Weekly. Her 2012 BFA thesis, "Seattle DIY: Live Music," has been displayed at various venues in the Seattle area. For a behind the scenes look at music, she shoots in-studio performances at local radio station KEXP.