Review: Animal Collective at The Ritz

Mike Warburton witnessed Animal Collective in formidable form at a sold out O2 Ritz, Manchester on Wednesday. Read his review here.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 18th Apr 2016

Photo: Animal Collective at The Ritz Credit: Jody Hartley Photography

With at least eight albums stretching all the way back to the turn of the century alongside a clutch of impressive EPs, Animal Collective are a band with a back catalogue that excels in abstract, experimental art rock, and psychedelic pop.

They're a group that have earned a reputation for defying expectations - fearlessly plundering new sounds borrowed from the four corners of the galaxy and chewing them up in a provocative style, and they're bloody good at it.

So naturally, expectations were high amongst their cult-like fans when they turned up at The Ritz for Now Wave on Wednesday night for the final date of their European tour.

Static feedback and high pitched glitches faded in as the drummer began tapping out a tribal rhythm that would continue unhindered for the next half an hour. The three main members - Panda Bear, Geologist and Avey Tare took their positions from left to right respectively behind a collection of wires and modular synths without a single 'conventional' instrument in sight. 

Photo: Panda Bear Credit O2 Ritz Manchester

Panda Bear, whose voice always sounds incredible on their records was, from the very start, magnificent - his vocals often holding together the blend of Geologist's battling synth surges, off kilter drumming, and Avey's more intense singing. The set began with a bang as they worked through tracks from new album Painting With, in front of expertly crafted, vivid lighting and stage design.

Without many initial sing-a-long moments, partly as the material is still so new in everyone's minds, the hypnotic and at times brutal morass of pitch-fucked samples, the head-spinning delayed vocal harmonising between Avey and Panda, and endless blast of rapidfire chord changes was in full effect from the off.

Overwhelming at first, our ears soon adjusted and the melodies quickly revealed themselves in greater focus as they segued each track together without so much as pause for a breath. This was already seriously impressive, and wholeheartedly baffling stuff.

It wasn't until the sixth or seventh track, 'Golden Gal' that the incessant percussion and wash of noise finally broke, with Avey acknowledging the crowd to a huge cheer.

The relentless build up gave the meandering, Beach Boys pop prowess of that track even more impact. In fact it was these brash build ups that made the live set such a joy, drawing us into an uneasy, hypnotised state tempered with moments of endorphin-rich sunlight.

'Daily Routine' from Merriweather Post Pavilion slowly faded in, Panda Bear teasing a syllable from the track for what seemed like an age as the synths gradually revealed the track's identity. The audience were suspended into a halcyon-like state, each drawn out chord change greeted with huge cheers as Panda Bear's vocals and sporadic bass throbs left us speechless. 

'FloriDaDa' brought the set to a pleasing end, although somehow the first single to be lifted from Painting With didn't quite deliver the impact of its recorded version, with perhaps equipment limitations meaning its ridiculous chorus bassline, the track's signature was strangely missing.

Of course with some of their most well loved hits like 'Peacebone', 'My Girls' and 'Today's Supernatural' not yet played, their encore would surely see them dish out the crowd-pleasers? Wrong.

Upon their return they again defied our expectations - instead of the mania we'd been treated to for the past hour plus, we were greeted by the looped guitar of 'Bees' from 2005's fantastic Feels LP.

Unexpected to say the least, this turned out to be arguably the set's highlight, Panda Bear and Avey's vocals and Geologist's mad as hell modular twiddlings reminding us that they're just as adept at ponderous moments of beauty as they are chaotic mangled pop. 'Bees' drifted into 'Loch Raven' (above) from the same album and was also spine-tinglingly brilliant, whilst the breakneck pace of 'The Burglars' brought the set to a dramatic and energetic close.

Not relying on any of those previously mentioned big hits, it was very much a gig that rewarded the Animal Collective obsessives amongst us and those who came along for the trip - which was, as it turned out, a trip we'd recommend to anyone. Avey promised they'd be back soon - we'll hold him to that.

More like this? Read Five of the Best Record Store Day releases.

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The Futureheads

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Sunday 15th Dec

7:00pm til 11:00pm

Minimum Age: 15

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The Japanese House
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The Japanese House

O2 Ritz, Manchester

Wednesday 18th Dec

7:00pm til 11:00pm

No age restrictions

For ticket prices, please click here (Additional fees may apply)

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