Animal Collective

Swiss Dots, 2010


REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


There has been a longstanding tradition of bands, rock and pop alike, releasing films to accompany their music. Usually these generally seem to fall squarely into the “live performance” category. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that approach, some especially ambitious acts seek to go much further. The Who and Pink Floyd cast their career-defining rock operas with real actors and made twisted musicals in “Tommy” and “The Wall.” Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” and The Monkees’ “Head” put songs next to bizarre plots and sets, with only the slightest attempt at coherency made. But Animal Collective really take it all the way. On ODDSAC they (along with director Danny Perez) nearly completely rid themselves of any notions of plot. Officially, it’s not even a movie; the band is calling it a “visual album,” meant to be viewed as one would listen to a normal LP of music.


Generally within each scene coherent things happen and there are several reoccurring images throughout, but in no way can you say that there is any underlying point behind these visuals that either imparts a message or ties things neatly together. The only purpose to the visual side of this project seems to just be to look really neat. It’s actually very comparable to how some kinds of music videos work. However, the key difference between ODDSAC and a simple collection of music videos is that the band wrote the music simultaneously with the visuals, letting aspects of each influence each other. To further emphasize how the music and the movie go together, the band has even made the choice to not release the soundtrack separately from the DVD. Perhaps surprisingly, even though they approached it this way, the music and the visuals are not inseparable.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250


Listened to on its own, the music of ODDSAC is certainly the most suite-like collection of songs the band has attempted to date. Each song flows seamlessly into the next, switching from proto-ambient soundscapes to fully-fledged songs and back again. Unsurprisingly, for a movie, there are many sound effects, yet nothing from the film will take you out of a music-only listen to the album. When Animal Collective claims that they provided the soundtrack to this film they meant it. Every sound you hear they put there. Nearly no sound is actually imparted from something on screen.


In fact, if it weren't for a short segment featuring a kid talking about “Green Beans,” you might not even notice whether the audio was out of sync or not. Unlike on Animal Collective’s previous few releases, it’s not easy to pick out tracks that can easily stand on their own. Even the more straightforward, song-based material is enhanced and modified by its surroundings. “Tantrum Barb” doesn’t seem complete without its lead-in “Working.” Likewise “Mess Hour House” and “What Happened” also make a nice pair. “Screens” recalls Pink Floyd in their folkier moments and brings back the acoustic guitar that has been largely absent from Animal Collective’s music in recent years. The opening “Mr. Fingers” is certainly the most fully-realized track here, gradually building psychedelic steam over its seven minutes.


It’s great fun seeing the band members each acting (well, as much as one can act in a movie like this anyway). Avey Tare plays some sort of monster, Deakin plays a vampire, Geologist washes satin orbs and makes faces, and Panda Bear plays drums. These scenes, along with the other live action moments, are by far the highlights as far as the visuals are concerned. At several points, the film decides to play around with flashing images and kaleidoscope-like effects. Perhaps viewers who’ve decided to place themselves in certain “enhanced states of consciousness” (so to speak) might enjoy these scenes, but for the most part, they just make me dizzy.


I can’t help but feel that, due to its unusual nature, ODDSAC is destined to end up being overlooked in Animal Collective’s discography. It could be argued that up to this point every subsequent album has broken new ground from the one before, and for the first time, that’s not the case here. The music and images were gradually assembled over the last several years, and by that notion sounds like aspects of their last several albums. But breaking new ground really isn’t the point here. Instead, ODDSAC seems to function as a kind of punctuation mark. It summarizes the band’s music of the past decade, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, their electronic and acoustic sides, and their song based and ambient sides, along with their different approaches to music-making and creativity. Only time will tell if this marks and end of an era for Animal Collective or simply a mere pause in their natural progression as a band.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2010 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Swiss Dots, and is used for informational purposes only.