Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Animal Assembly

Last night I walked the long and winding Brighton streets with Effie to St George’s Road to enter a house of the Lord. Inside was around 400 of Brighton’s finest, ready to face a weird situation. Animal Collective in a church.

I’ve been to Church gigs before. I’ve watched many a priest rock his sermon on the pulpit. I’ve witnessed countless boys choirs sing their little hearts out for the delectation of proud parents. I’ve even seen Iron and Wine give a sober performance to a respectful congregation.

What the hell were Animal Collective doing in a church? I don’t get the impression that they are particularly religious (haven’t done my research on that one, I’ll admit). No lyrics I’ve picked up have ever suggested that they shout out to God that often.

Still, as a promoter, it’s always going to be a fun proposition.

“Shall we? In a church? It’ll seem wrong but oh so right won’t it! Oh, come, let’s do it! Bollocks to God!”

I must say I felt a little naughty as I sat at the back, my feet propped on the prayer mat in front, sipping lager from a can. Bars in churches? Well, whatever gets them in.

The support act, Islaja were an interesting prospect. Drones and Indian style voices from a slight lady in a pink dress, while bass loops and backing vocals layered up from a rangy fellow in a sports shirt. It was intense and captivating. As the set progressed, we were treated to discordant two way guitar playoffs and percussion loops. Just near the end a proper looped low end came in and a real Bjorkesque stomper rattled through the church. Watching the performance with natural church reverberation, and the beautiful symmetry of the building, overseen by the floating lifesize effigy of Christ, it was rather spectacular and intense.

Last time I saw Animal Collective, they were supporting Four Tet in The Egypt Cottage, Newcastle. They were scrabbling around on the floor, screaming into microphones, and looping the shit out of everything. The room was small and hot and I could barely see anything for the standing room. The set was anxious, tribal and spooky.

And here I sit in the church, watching this three piece, creating a massive sound. Gone are the acoustic guitars of Sung Tongs. Almost gone are the live drums of Feels. The set is almost entirely electronic and vocal. Huge massive swirls of sound, samples of noise, synths, bits of percussion, loping basslines and of course the interplay between the two main vocalists, gliding all over their vocal melodies like an advanced level snakes and ladders. The intensity is overwhelming. The urge to dance is pretty immense. And I watch the audience in front of me, seated; a silhouetted static mass absorbing the onslaught of noise and light. Some heads were bobbing. My legs were dancing.

The light show was epic. Four strips of blinding rainbow-colours, zooming up and down like a child with a sparkler. A massive Zoom lolly sparkler. If you closed your eyes (which I bet everyone did at some point) you could see space invaders before your eyes. Dancing blocks of white light moving across your inner space. And, presumably, a small craft shooting them down one by one.

The band seemed somewhat exhausted. A touring band can always be forgiven for looking knackered, especially when they go mental for 90 minutes each night, sweating their glands off to small rooms full of adoring damp indie children. Tonight they were sweating it to a large church full of confused indie children. Should I dance? I want to dance! The ideals part of my brain felt that somehow they should have tailored their set to their surroundings. Maybe play some church organ. Or do some acoustic numbers to break up the madness. But no, true to their current trajectory, they hammered forward with the 'Strawberry Jam' sound, pummelling the beats and the fat fizzles of sound into our delicate ears. I enjoyed hearing a few reworked previously-acoustic numbers given the speeded up mentalist treatment. I also revelled in what I assume is the new material, lovely vocal lines and spazzed song structures.

If I would describe their overall sound in one word. Hectic. Enjoyably hectic.

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