Animal Collective (with Danny Perez)
Styles: visual album, experimental
Others: Terrestrial Tones, David Lynch, Gummo
It went without saying that ODDSAC, a “visual album” by Animal Collective and director Danny Perez, was gonna be good. In fact, it’s impossible to pair any visual idea with Animal Collective’s music at its core without inciting intrigue of some kind. This release was truly an event, and I’m lucky to have finally been held in its sick spell, one that I hope and pray more crazed sensibilities can feast their eternally frazzled senses on.
Sure, there’s some gratuitous literal* and figurative stone-touching — Alejandro Jodorowsky, Matthew Barney, Gummo; the Kenneth Anger-reminiscent title card style ; vulgar, oozing, sloppy 80s horror (e.g., Evil Dead); late-period Lynch quick-cut scare tact — but they don’t really approximate what AC and Perez have done with ODDSAC. If it were in smell-o-vision, the audience would be getting hearty, near-overwhelming whiffs of lakewater, wet rocks, bubblin’ crude, moss, dander, brine, marshmallow (though not like any marshmallow you’ve smelled before), burning tires, and rotting pumpkin. I’d name all of them, but I’d rather leave it for you to discover.
As much as this is an Animal Collective fan’s dream, its nicely varied blend of song craft and strong abstract visual themes (impatience, anxiousness, regression, and “picking at it” come to mind) could also serve as a great way to introduce new people to the strange center that this band inhabits. The songs are more like the looser, more primal songs of earlier recordings like Here Comes the Indian and Campfire Songs. And they’re so well married to the visuals that pondering what came first serves only to spoil its subtle perfection.
This film employs an idea I’ve always found intriguing: audaciously outlandish made-up languages. ODDSAC contains one of the most frighteningly bracing shrill gibberish argument/conversations since Lynch’s The Grandmother. It’s one of those key moments in the film when it feels like the filmmakers and AC are somehow jamming in real time. Although there’s some recurring characters, there’s no real narrative, no thru-line that I could see. Instead, there’s a lot of funny moments turning into scary ones and back again, with interludes that are minimal and spaced-out in a perfectly-paced, 53-minute length — Sundance, just like your town, is a good place for this work. It’s not just a sit-and-watch-at-the-Whitney thing. It’s got legs. Long, slimy ones, but they carry you. If we could’ve danced at the screening, that would’ve been fine.
ODDSAC is no masterpiece of new cinema or somesuch, but it’s one fresh doozy of a visual album. And because its influences, like the ones mentioned, are as sound as the new creativity and tastefulness with which they’re infused, it’s senseless to gripe, especially in light of all the artists doing “conceptual” work that can get unwieldy with all that Wagnerian scale-tipping. Simply, it’s a great series of shorts and songs, and while it’s much more unified than the corresponding videos Beach House included with Teen Dream, it’s ultimately to be enjoyed in the same fashion. It’s not hammy and overbearing like The Wall (though the scene where Geldof suddenly turns around and gives an eyebrowless howl at the groupie is scary in a way not too dissimilar from some of ODDSAC) — the viewer’s allowed to feel lost and have fun about it. If you love Animal Collective and the vids for “Who Could Win A Rabbit” and “Brother Sport,” you’re in for something truly savory here.
* Spoiler Alert: hirsute man washes rocks in river.