Prior to announcing an upcoming album, the experimental band performed an almost entirely new set of music during their tour.
Animal Collective (probably) played practically the entirety of their upcoming record at the Cain’s Ballroom last week. This is exciting news mostly in the fact that they haven’t properly announced a new record yet. This new album is presumably coming out within the next year and a half or so.
Band member Josh “Deakin” Dibb shared on his Instagram that after the tour (which began in Tulsa, had only six dates and is already over) they would hunker down on the new album, so that’s a kind of soft announcement. Before playing one of the new tracks live (Tulsa is presumably where they all premiered), frontman David “Avey Tare” Portner said something to the effect of, “We’re in a sort of gestation period right now, so we’ve got a lot of new stuff.”
The new record will come after 2016’s experimental pop album “Painting With,” which they toured in 2016, visiting Cain’s, and 2018’s “Tangerine Reef,” an ecologically-minded ambient album. This new album may be a bit of a return to form, with complex, structureless and shamelessly weird pop tracks.
That’s not to say the concert didn’t have its share of oldies. It opened with “Banshee Beat,” the emotional centerpiece of 2005’s “Feels” and the only song from which I’ve seriously considered getting tattooed lyrics. Other classic tracks included an energetic performance of “In the Flowers,” a cool rendition of “No More Runnin,” a wonderfully extended “Pulleys” and “Grass,” also from “Feels,” surprisingly faithful to the studio recording, in which a much younger Avey Tare screams over and over again in the refrain. Hearing it reproduced live, note for note, was nothing short of impressive.
Based off a picture of the setlist from Reddit user u/bfgarzilla9k, Animal Collective played eight new tracks (which sounds about right, based on my memory). In order of their appearance, and as listed on the setlist, they were “Cherokee,” “24,” “Kings,” “Strangers,” “Defeat,” “Gem and I,” “Down Down Down” and “Bolder,” the latter two of which comprised the entierety of the encore. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed not to hear something more familiar in the encore, but I can’t complain about new tracks.
A combination of poor memory and my general unfamiliarity with the brand new tracks means a proper recollection of each song would be difficult, but one highlight stands out particularly. Based on when I remember it occurring in the set, it was either “Kings” or “Strangers,” and featured Deakin and drummer Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox vocalizing together with almost no other instrumentation. They drew near their microphones and just let it rip, going up and down in unison. Avey Tare, meanwhile, messed with his pedalboard before getting the desired effect: some sort of pitched-up, autotuned vocal modulation, with which he sang slowly and deliberately over the repetitive, medieval-sounding chanting from his bandmates. It was incredible and absolutely insane.
One feature from each new track that I distinctly remember, at least, was that Avey Tare played a bass guitar for all of them. Whenever I saw him swapping his guitar for a bass, I knew a new track was coming. To this end, the new songs seemed a little inspired by funk and R&B at times, and when the bass playing matched up to Panda Bear’s intricate drumming, the new songs were groovy, danceable and impossible not to bob your head to.
Things weren’t as wonderful in the crowd: someone passed out near to where my girlfriend and I were standing, and a fight between two women broke out soon after. I can only hope the guys in Animal Collective didn’t notice all the commotion, because I’d hate for them to be turned off of Tulsa for the future.
I’ll say that the crowd treated the opener better this time than I remember them treating Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith in 2016. Opening act Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa kicked the night off with smooth, electronic ambience. Wong is an ex-member of Ponytail, the drummer of which, Jeremy Hyman, joined Animal Collective on their last tour, so it was nice to see that musical partnership continuing in 2019. I distinctly remember Wong beaming after every track, whenever the crowd would clap and whoop. He seemed surprised each time.
If nothing else, Animal Collective’s tantalizingly short tour gave us a taste of new music, and that’s something with which no fan could be disappointed. In the meantime, you can find me waiting by my computer, refreshing my email every few minutes, waiting for the newsletter that will officially announce the new album.