Levitation Live Shot: Animal Collective

Electro-Cajun country hoedowns to Afro-club hybrids

Levitation canceled, C3 Presents made good by relocating champions of the defunct, Baltimore’s Animal Collective, to Emo’s on Saturday night. Forever an act people love to love/knee-jerk hate/discuss/love again, the quartet (minus Josh Dibb, and plus drummer Jeremy Hyman) worked over supersized cuts from Painting Over to great effect.

Animal Collective: (l-r) Lennox, Weitz, and Portner – installed at Emo’s, 4.30.16 (Photo by Shelley Hiam)

On one end, the 13-year-old synth-pop endeavor engages in psychedelic yarn spinning. On the other, David Portner, Noah Lennox, and Brian Weitz flow electro-Cajun country hoedowns into Afro-club hybrids. Between that spectrum, there wasn’t an ounce of breathing room.

Leading the evening was an entrancing set by modular synth maven Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, who went full-on Carl Sagan in a deep-space interlude. Clever manipulations, along with the Bay Arean’s heavily processed vocals, created blends of spectral lushness. “Rare Things Grow” sucked a primed and hypnotized sold-out house down a fractal vortex reminiscent of the 1982 Tron soundtrack.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (Photo by Shelley Hiam)

Quiet as usual and low on conversation – to be seen and heard performing, and nothing else – the headliners came out to a surrealist, Picasso-influenced backdrop and stage pieces. “On Delay” and “Hounds of Bairro” looped drums into a kaleidoscopic bounce rhythm that then became the lone constant of the 90-minute set. Album single “Lying in the Grass” went from feral to playful, exploding like a thousand glitter-filled balloons.

Somewhat disappointing on disc, the suddenly muscular and dynamic “Summing the Wretch” and “Vertical” packed a sound mosaic space thump. “Recycling” went island, sounding like the triumphant end of the greatest domino maze. Closing with “FloriDada,” and “Bees,” the band remains part meditative, part whirling dervish.

David Portner, aka Avey Tare (Photo by Shelley Hiam)

Brian Weitz, aka Geologist (Photo by Shelley Hiam)

At the core of Animal Collective is their vocals. They can’t sing. Impeccable lockstep timing on exhortations by Portner and Lennox thus weave with the sonics. Driving and propulsive, the quartet plays right through that deficiency.

They don’t weaponize their gizmos and gadgets to help them win you over. They command their machines like individual paintbrushes, pushing forth a living world of unending textures.

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More Animal Collective
Levitating Platters
Animal Collective
Painting With (Record Review)

Kahron Spearman, April 29, 2016

Phases & Stages
Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Feb. 6, 2009

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Animal Collective, Levitation 2016, Josh Dibb, David Portner, Noah Lennox, Brian Weitz, Jeremy Hyman, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

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