LIVE: Animal Collective – 02 Ritz Manchester 13.04.16

Underpaid barhand by day. Would-be music journo by night. Under the newly appointed title thanks to the press list, David Ear (one of the kinder slip-ups) and co. eagerly worm their way through a sold out Ritz to catch a glimpse of Baltimore’s finest experimental-pop purveyors, Animal Collective.

With Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist (signature headlamp proudly in tow) positioned behind analogue synths, switch boards and a plethora of pedals and arranged in a sort of Kraftwerk rejigged ‘Guess Who?’ lay out they begin with the first slew of Painting With tracks. Snippets of displaced lyrical couplets are asphyxiated by the cacophony of sampledelic sounds that pour fourth, erupting like a Tangerine Wet Dream.

An Animal Collective gig should be an overwhelming spectacle. All the ingredients are there; the Dada-esque Easter Island Heads backdrop, the intense variegated audiovisuals, the glorious glitch-pop anthems that defy convention by operating on the very limits of what a pop song can be, as they experiment freely with childlike glee.

Yet despite this, with a set almost completely comprised of new material, it does feel like there is some failure to engage. It could be due to the audience’s inexperience of the LP or the omission of classics like ‘Peacebone’ and ‘My Girls’. I’m all for flamboyant outbursts resembling R2D2 being throttled like a snow globe, but live, some songs feel as if they fall awkwardly between radical improvisation and mangled album extracts. It’s a digital discourse that often fails to make proper contact with the mass of thriving life forms below.

However there’s still plenty of highlights and flickers of genius. Singles ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Floridada’ still shine, with the eccentric clout of latter resounding through the room. For their encore they sink into a meandering Arthur Russell, eschewed ambient intro before they work into an ethereal rendition of ‘Bees’. It’s boundless and quite beautiful, a real shift in the shows dynamics. Overall it’s still an exciting, engrossing show but for a band known for their endless imagination we expected a bit more.

David Weir