S/T Survived … Two Hours of Watching Animal Collective Stand Still At Their Creepy Guggenheim Performance With Danny Perez

[Photos by Jen Maler]

By Andrew Parks

“Who are these guys?”

“They’re called Animal Collective.”

“They a rock band or something?”

“Kinda.”

Welcome to one of many awkward exchanges self-titled had with audience members at the Guggenheim premiere of “Transverse Temporal Gyrus,” a performance art piece featuring the music of Animal Collective and the visuals of Danny Perez. (Longtime s/t readers will remember him as the guy who beamed projections onto Black Dice for us a couple years ago.)

That last conversation was with a member of the museum’s security team, an outside company brought in to corral any acid casualties who crumbled under the weight of the trio’s ruptured samples and prismatic synths. (Not to mention those masks, the Eyes Wide Shut cherry on the top of costumes that bridged the gap between Mickey Mouse and a sacrifice-happy black mass.) Casualties like the girl we saw on a subway platform afterward. She was a little freaked out. Or as her boyfriend put it–and I’m not making this up–”Those weren’t ghosts, hunny. They were just modulations of sound.”

See, this is why I stopped taking psychedelics after an ‘incident’ several years ago–because grown ass men have real problems, problems that don’t respond to wobbly brain waves very well. So what was “Transverse Temporal Gyrus” like if you weren’t high? A tongue twister of a title with little payoff? Not exactly. If you went into the night with the wrong attitude–or the hope that they’d suddenly break into an A/V version of “Banshee Beat”–you probably left feeling cheated, a little outraged at just how “pretentious!” Animal Collective is.

My response to that would be, where have you been all these years? While Animal Collective’s a band, first and foremost, they’ve always treated their music like an art project. Hence why they spent years performing unreleased songs rather than the record they just released–because Animal Collective’s body of work is a canvas that keeps getting whited-out and splattered every few years.

Not to get all “I was there” on you, but Animal Collective kinda bugged me out the first time I saw them–at a semi-legal art space in Philly more than five years ago (see: the above video). The idea that they’d eventually become a 21st century pop band would have seemed ludicrous at the time. So to see them go from a glorious mess to a sold-out Guggenheim show is to feel like the good guys won this time. Pretentious or not, Animal Collective have built an army of face-painted fans (we’ll be posting photos of them in a bit) on the back of music that challenges as much as it rewards. And if they want to pour their growing bank accounts into stage props and mind-fucking movies, more power to them. Hey, it’s better than someone like Spoon–indie rock vets who keep writing the same…fucking…record, over and over again. Yeah, it’s a damn good record, but haven’t we heard it all before?

That said, I totally understand the Guggenheim-goer that said the following: “Give me something I can dance to.”

  • joydivided

    sounds boring as fuck. glad i skipped it.

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  • joydivided

    my buddy i talked to was fairly certain the AC guys weren’t even in attendance.

  • Well, we talked to the sound and lighting engineers there, and they said Danny was controlling the visuals from the top of the rotunda, and the band was in the costumes. Apparently, they spent all day with the engineers figuring out how everything would be triggered. So your buddy is wrong.

  • Joe

    Well I think the main cause of issue was that it was sort of made out to be this interactive experience. I was not looking for a show or anything “rock-esque,” heck i don’t even dance. However, $30 was excessive for what was delivered. That seemed to be the cause of concern for most. Moving past the amount of cliche American Apparel Columbia/NYU kids in face paint, one couldnt help but be bothered by the pretentious egos on them. Walking around like with this entitlement and pulling the stereotypical “YOU JUST DONT GET IT MAN” attitude. Toss in the amount of acid that was taken and you had a very bad vibe where all were waiting on something that never arrived. The fact that the most exciting thing all evening, and the one that everyone was buzzing about was that Haley Joel Osment was there says a lot. Pretentious is fine. Self indulgent rip off is another thing.

    • All good points, Joe. The fact that it wasn’t interactive at all surprised us as well. Honestly, we thought it was just gonna be an art installation that you walked through, where certain movements would trigger different sounds. So yeah—that was disappointing for sure.

      Appreciate the well-put response, as opposed to a knee-jerk “that was lame.”

  • Joe

    Exactly. I expected different things on different levels. Even something simple such as a piece of art and lights. The ticket handed outside even suggested that by pointing out the bar locations on different levels and encouraging one to start at the top and “work your way down.”

  • Eric

    Agree with you Joe. I don’t know where I fall in the hipster vs hedge fund spectrum reflected in the crowd, but I can say I’m a dissapointed AC fan. I wasn’t expecting a show, hoping but not expecting, but I was looking for a greater visual display and more interactive environment. It was an impressive sound display, and it created an interesting space for thought. In the end though, I feel like I spent way too much to people watch. I think the worst part was having the guys reward those who waited it out with not so much as a thank you or explanation. They really should’ve addressed the crowd.

  • joydivided

    i guess what this all comes down to is: Danny Perez…not a very good artist.

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