When your band’s last album was near the top of pretty much every ‘Best Of’ list in the known universe, you pretty much get to do whatever you want for a follow-up. Apparently, what the fellows of Animal Collective wanted to do with that carte blanche was work alongside director Danny Perez to craft the most psychedelic and frankly frightening music/film hybrid since the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, which, for the record, is goddamn terrifying. In this goal, they succeed mightily with their latest release, the “visual album” Oddsac.
Speaking prior to a midnight screening at New York’s IFC Theatre, the film’s director advised the audience to just sort of let go for the film’s not-quite-an-hour run time. “Don’t try to decipher it too much”, requested Perez. It’s good advice that will contribute greatly to enjoying Oddsac, which alternates between creating psychedelic landscapes of color, motion, and sound, and gleefully context-free vignettes that are by turns meditative and gruesome.
As an album and a film, Oddsac is, perhaps inevitably, uneven–colored static and electronic drones dominate or punctuate significant portions of the work, and at points, these can’t help but drag. But they offset the sense of dread that hangs over the work, marked by frequent jump cuts, distorted whispers and indecipherable sounds, and aesthetically challenging scenes seemingly pulled from lucid nightmares. Perez has a gift for the hideous, delighting in confronting viewers with images that ooze, peel, and creep around the border of consciousness. Though one can sense distinct shades of Lynch and Bava at points in the film, Oddsac operates within a striking visual context all its own.
Sonically, the piece is a bit harder to draw a bead on. To a reviewer who is, admittedly, more focused on scene than sound, it seems as if the music takes a back seat to the frequently breathtaking visual tableaus. Though a few strong tracks stand out, they are exceptions on an album that mostly feels like a soundtrack and isn’t as impressive or memorable as its visual component. But the two elements are really inseparable, and trying to review Oddsac as one thing or another does the sum of the work a disservice. Nothing springs to mind that, in concept or execution, compares very closely to what has been assembled here, which is reason enough to recommend it.
Musically and visually, Oddsac is unmistakably in Animal Collective’s wheelhouse: unapologetically and uncompromisingly weird, possessed of a singular vision, and all the more compelling for it. As such, it’s not for everyone, and there are those who will be turned off simply by its nature. But given a chance and viewed with an open mind, Oddsac is an often thrilling sensory spectacle that packs a unique, visceral punch.