Went to see Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend at Webster Hall last night. VW was really good — poppy, but fairly skewed too, with bits of soukous guitar thrown in from time to time, as if it was just a way of playing lilting guitar and not a specific African style. They’re not a “world music” act by any stretch; these various styles of playing are all just out there now, to be used when appropriate. I wondered if they sounded a little like early Talking Heads, a little bit, maybe, which of course wouldn’t bother me. They got the crowd moving, which is pretty impressive for an opening act. Catchy tunes too. I’d heard some on an EP or demo CD. They said they’re working on an album now.
In the past, Animal Collective were very briefly lumped in with the freak folk crowd, but they couldn’t be further from that now. Very few acoustic instruments remain — a cymbal got hit and a guitar appeared briefly, but the rest was all pre-recorded tracks, loops and samples. Their instruments were an array of tiny mixing boards and electronics that played Mini Discs or samples. “Playing” mainly consisted of pushing faders up and down. To be fair, two of the three guys took turns singing, though I couldn’t make out any of the words; so yes, there was more to focus on than just faders moving. Musically, it was an enjoyable sonic collage that never stopped, rather it ebbed and flowed, building up to big washes of sound with echoey singing and then sinking back to a single shimmering loop before building up into a new song.
It was a funny mixture — they arrayed themselves on stage as if they were a traditional rock band. They’re more akin to laptop DJs than a band, though a band can be anything these days, I guess. The singing and dancing about are not usually part of the laptop scene, so that part energized the show in a good way.