Coming up with a simple explanation of Animal Collective is hard. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:
“The band’s music is characterized by studio experimentation, vocal harmonies, and an exploration of various genres which include freak folk, noise rock, ambient drone, and psychedelia.”
Frankly this doesn’t make the point at all. I just saw them in concert a couple nights ago and took the photo above. Here is what I saw. Three men working on computers and keyboards and a drummer. The stage looked like something from a primitive cave drawing come to life and was in constant motion with animation over everything.
One thing to recognize is after decades of the use of synthesizers, sequencers and other electronic instruments people have come to realize that there is music you can make electronically that you just can’t make any other way. These instruments are not cheap substitutes for “real instruments.” They are the new way to make music. Bands of all kinds have incorporated electronics into their setups. Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is taking over the hip hop and house music world. If you are going to come to appreciate new music, you need to get passed any prejudice you may have against electronics. The first time I saw a fully electronic group in concert I didn’t realize there were only electronics in their music. I loved what I heard first, and only then realized it was 100% electronically produced (other that the singing of course). Maybe that made it easier for me. I’ve come to fully embrace it.
Animal collective make full use – with three musicians operating massive amounts of equipment and a drummer. There were no guitars in sight. What they’ve created is truly an amazing mix of sound built from their voices mixed with a spectacular range of musical sounds produced from a large number of CPUs operating on stage.
Their music is complex, and maybe the smell of 420 in the room helped people experience the full effect. Don’t try to figure it out. Let the music take you.