Having seen Animal Collective before I hoped they would live up to their reputation of never producing the same performance twice, as I was a little disappointed when I saw them last year. The suitable qualities of Feels, the album they were promoting at the time was lost in a very bombastic sound. The impression I was left with was of band trying to fill a large space.
Having released their most accessible album Strawberry Jam earlier this year on Domino records I made the assumption that the Astoria would be heaving with newly acquired fans. This was not the case as the gig was moved to the smaller Astoria 2. This did cause me some irritation as I believe it to be one of the worst venues in London for visibility and this applies to both floors.
They appeared on stage on time and with very little fuss, minus a band member, (which I did not initially notice as I could not see the stage) but the Animal collective as a three piece did not turn out to be a disappointment. The previous emphasis on the basic set up of guitar and drums had been moved to a more electronic sound orchestrated by the head nodding Avery Tare. This is not unlike the sound that they have organically progressed towards on Strawberry Jam. None of the songs felt regurgitated or overly structured, a freedom perhaps created with the limitation of instruments and arms. This allowed the songs to run along effortlessly, close too but never quite blending into one repetitive clamor, at times the sound produced was hypnotic that entranced both band and audience alike.
It is difficult to pinpoint a highlight as this felt like a cohesive set punctured by recognisable melodies that carried you along. But to name one Fireworks was a distinctive gem and they did dip into old material, but the emphasis was more on the latest material. The reworking of old favorites like Who Could Win A Rabbit also hit the right note and did benefit from not been note perfect, which is an achievement in itself.
They were not on this occasion frustrating as is often stated, but totally absorbing This was a thoroughly enjoyable performance from one of the most incomparable bands around. Next time it may be a different story.