Lauded by the great and the good for their post-folk, experimental indie-pop psychedelia (or, perhaps not, depends on who you read), Animal Collective has veritably vaulted towards the upper reaches of cultural ambition – ODDSAC is not just an album, but a “visual album”, meshing AC’s signature sound with Danny Perez’s arty visuals.
After being ushered to a secret location in central London by a cordon of paranoid security (all right, walking up to the screening room and saying my name), we lucky few were treated to 50 minutes of utter bewilderment, and not a few giggles. Clocking in with approximately eight distinct sections, all linked by washes of post-ambient static and rhythmic fumbles, a la Supersilent, but nowhere near as transcendent, the film tries very, very hard to be arty, and fails miserably.
What this was an expression of is hard to tell – the vocals on Merriweather Post Pavilion were indistinct enough, and here, whatever deep and important message was being put forward was lost under a mess of sonic experiments, and distracted from by the possibly irrelevant visuals. It smacked of an art student making a film installation, and playing with the Winamp visualisation kit – the abstract visual sections were bright and flashing, and complemented the aimless sonic noodling in between what could possibly be called songs.
Only two sections were worth listening too, and luckily, were accompanied by the two most successful stretches of film. The fifth section, possibly, had a nice folk-rocky kind of tune, with Afro-beat undertones, sounding like a mash up of Paul Simon and Meddle-era Pink Floyd, with a dash of 60s-style vocal harmony on top. As the vocals were fairly indistinguishable, there was no lyric sheet and no option to listen repeatedly, I had no idea what on earth was being warbled, but I really hope it was something to do with the vampire in the rowing boat, paddling around a lake at night, I really do. Incongruous, but engrossing, this was a moment when Perez and the band seem to have cottoned on to making an effort, not just trying to sound like an outtake from the Kid A sessions and making visuals to match.
Fading into yet another period of “subtle” sonic whitewash, my hopes were at least restored that there might be another decent few minutes somewhere in this mess. After a dull transition into a slightly less dull image of a stony beach, silence reigned. This, I thought, was a preparation for something much more interesting, and so it proved to be. An androgynous figure, looking remarkably like a small, possibly female version of Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis wandered across said beach, to something vaguely indie-pop-folk-esque, assembling a drumkit. When said kit was built, she/he/it started smacking it for all it was worth, mirroring the beats on the soundtrack, and hey presto, we’re listening to a darker Vampire Weekend!
The good suddenly went bad, very very bad. In the penultimate sequence, where our previous friend, the vampire, is now wandering through the woods (could it get more clichéd? Yes it can), he is shown to be tracking some children and their parents. Messy end, you say? Not how you’d expect. The marshmallows they were toasting suddenly starting possessing them, frothing up and becoming strange foamy growths, allowing our vampire to munch on the throats of one of the kids. A titter rose from the assembled journos, especially with the Hammer-esque synths: think Deliverance, made by a third-rate video installation artist, having just watched a Christopher Lee marathon.
Ending with the death of the vampire by sunlight (he leaked paint, weirdly), we segue into a decent if unmemorable song, where the opening sequence (of a lady in a room, getting slowly covered in paint that seeps from the walls) is revisited, except this time, with three other people, and chap dressed like a cross between a voodoo priest and a carp. They all proceed to throw paint and flour around, and the fish priest tries to strangle someone. The best visual shot of the whole mess comes at the end, when the room is on wheels, and rolls off into the woods at night, a beacon of red light which actually looks really good.
Don’t buy this – if you get the chance to see it in its proper place, a disused warehouse in Hoxton with lots of drunken people in skintight jeans and fashionable hair, then you’ll enjoy. Hell, I might even manage to enjoy it there. As a new album for Animal Collective, though, it’s frankly a shocking effort.
4/10 – mainly for the occasional comedy of the visuals.