Mum, Animal Collective
Changes are afoot in Animal Collective. With five albums already to their name, the duo that toured last year with Four Tet has gained a member (on drums) and swapped the acoustic guitars for their electric equivalents.
Opting for one lengthy song cycle, the music is still as perplexing, but has a dynamic that was previously absent from their live shows and which remains discreet on their recorded work. Reference points are hard to pinpoint, but the territory is somewhere in the chain that links Captain Beefheart to the Dog Faced Hermans.
Mum are no less easy to unravel, but the Icelandic trio (supplemented for the purposes of this show by four additional multi-tasking musicians) have a more defined sound: one which is relentlessly downbeat and sad. If the tempo rises from time to time, the mood alters little. It is the fragility and beauty of the music that makes them a surprisingly engaging live act.
To recreate their current album, “Summer Make Good,” cannot be easy. Recorded in an Icelandic lighthouse, parts of it are so quiet and unassuming they are barely audible, much of it takes repeated listens to fully appreciate.
It is achieved by the dextrous use of a range of instruments. The guitars are supplemented by cello and trumpet on most songs, with violin, banjo, accordion, glockenspiel and melodica all deployed intermittently. This is underpinned by some Power Book generated electronica that owes a little to the Aphex Twin and a lot to Plaid.
With her twin having departed the band, Kristin Valtysdottir is as close as Mum has to a focal point, though her vocals blend in to the instrumentation rather than stand out from it. The words are one of the several tangential links to folk music, yet “The Ghosts You Draw On My Back” and “Nightly Cares” are hardly likely to appear on the Mike Harding show any time soon.
Instead, they evade categorisation and remain much the prettier for it.