[Photos by Jen Maler]
By Andrew Parks
“Who are these guys?”
“They’re called Animal Collective.”
“They a rock band or something?”
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.”