“All technologies converge toward the same spot, they all lead to a Deus ex Machina, a machine-God. In a way, technologies have negated the transcendental God in order to invent the machine-God.” –Paul Virilio
Meme: “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”/ mīmēma, “something imitated”
The world is transitioning into a more pragmatic perspective. Self-awareness or, more specifically, being aware of being self-aware has us heading toward a new “metamodernist” end. The “transcendental God” is a relic of the romantic ends used by yesteryear’s inhabitants, the more “genuine” time where hard work still held value. With technology now a part of every aspect of our lives, a sort of meta-level, a hypertext has been brought into the fold in our daily lives. That hypertext makes the idea of a Deus ex Machina the obvious end, and Centipede Hz is indeed quite invested in Virilio’s words, the building of the Deus ex Machina, whether it realizes it or not. Acting as the notion of Virllio’s Dromoscopy — the position in which one can observe speed and the objects in motion — Animal Collective deal with the constant media overload that we inevitably and undeniably experience daily, the signifier shrouded by static and interpretation. Basically, they are taking music to an end and observing the things that are attributed to the memory and historicization of that end. The focus here is on the how: how things change and degrade when other objects, thoughts impose on the subject
Centipede Hz as a concept and within the context of Animal Collective’s discography is teleological in nature. It seeks to confine the Earth and its history into a sort of caricature of itself: to examine it from the outside. As is the case with all Animal Collective albums, Centipede Hz feels celebratory, a celebration of having existed even when “shrouded by media, science, the nature of existence itself.” In this case, Animal Collective are the Dromoscope, the center of the flurry of information and lived experience; it does not move and it does not influence, only accepts and is influenced. Using themselves as the vessel, the sacrificial lambs of the notion of caricature in itself is directly related to the meme culture in which we have all been subjected to or helped along. Animal Collective choose to refute the post-humanist view that has appeared to be a sort of theme in modern music to make an album that is all too human: humanity faced with human essence in the largest of contexts.
This album, in a sense, directly opposes the works and concepts of Laurel Halo, patten, and Oneohtrix Point Never. These artists attempt to strip signifiers down to their essence, being more direct and immediate in their use of nostalgia and media intake. In this context, the human essence attempts to define itself in its technological surroundings — building the Deus ex Machina by submitting to it: feeding the machine to be one with it. Animal Collective, however, reject that idea by encasing the signifiers and piling age and bleeps on top of the “artifact” of the song. Indeed, Halo, patten, and OPN embrace the objective, while Animal Collective remain subjective but cognizant, thus becoming a memetic version of themselves. The meme becomes the enemy of genuity in that it reduces experience and knowledge down to a supposition. Here, Animal Collective are assuming the contradictory positions of both experiencer and examiner. They are the point, the beginning of genuity, backed further by the fact that they’ve chosen to become a “rock band” again, a more “human” entity.
The memetic form is attacked directly in “Today’s Supernatural” with the lyric, “My home is bigger than a mountain view/ You find something you believe that you should do/ Sometimes it won’t come so easy, but sometimes you’ve gotta go get mad, mad.” Avey Tare here is fighting on the side of emotional weight and girth. In a world full of disingenuous reductionism — the state in which the album exists conceptually and textually — one can indeed fall into a state of existential crisis feeling worthless under the weight of our society’s attachment to cynical deconstruction. The choruses have the singers forcing their way out of the confining walls of artifice and influence to reach existentially sublime planes. The information overload from the background informs the emotionality of the lead vocal’s delivery, the voice reveling in ecstasy and in the glory of itself. Animal Collective, here and elsewhere on the album, fight for realization of one’s fatal placement in the Dromoscopy.
The celebratory and teleological nature of Centipede Hz show what Animal Collective is “on about” when dissecting the songs themselves as artifacts of the nostalgia we all feel for a time that wasn’t as complicated by machines. Each song (at least on the first half) is bathed in nods to radio favorites — Toto, Chaka Chan, The Who, etc. — nods that are considered “honest” because music was allegedly more authentic then. But Animal Collective’s brand of nostalgia seems wrong, if not broken: there’s too much information (sounds, samples) to process and not enough time with the nods to actually discern that they are in fact nods. Which brings us full circle: reconstruction of the subjective notion. On Centipede Hz, Animal Collective have arrived to a new beginning.