Animal Collective and Danny Perez Animal Collective and Danny PerezODDSAC
There are all kinds of different people –writers, musicians, even normal people– who say that their ego disappeared completely with the first drop of acid they took. Psychedelia is, or people say, a source of knowledge and artistic inspiration –the latter is undoubtedly true, and the first I don’t know, in spite of my own experience– that has its roots in surrealism and that in a way has taken over the torch from the dreamy and furious disciples of André Breton, in the second half of the 20th century. Animal Collective are pure psychedelia: their music has always been at the uncertain borders of nightmares, hallucinations and mystic dreams, and their growing creative progress –which culminated with the assault on the peak of avant-pop on “Merryweather Post Pavillion” (2009)– needed to find new ways to expand. So they teamed up with director Danny Perez and made “ODDSAC”, a “visual film” in their own words –a clever euphemism to hide the fact that this is an experimental film, or a 53-minute video clip; no big deal, anyway– that premiered at Sundance, last January, getting unanimous but not enthusiastic reviews –everybody agreed on the concept “trippy visual” rather than film– and that now, finally is being released on DVD for home viewing, in a confined space and with time, which is how one normally takes LSD.
The term “trippy visual” is perfect for “ODDSAC”: you enter that phantom world and you come out with a retina indigestion, dizzy and with the sensation of having travelled to another world, not the world of the dead but that of a parallel dreamy reality, like the places Randolph Carter went to in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Here however, there are no old stone columns that stick out of the dunes of a bombastic desert, nor lost cities or magnificent doors lacquered in marble and silver: what there are, are cabins in the woods surrounded by will-o'-the-wisps, full moons, people jumping and running around and wildly abstract landscapes in which the image is reduced to a weave of colour, light and random forms. There is no plot to “ODDSAC” because it’s not fiction, it’s automatic poetry in the form of an arty video from the school of Stan Brakhage, Guy Maddin and, as probably the most approximate reference, Matthew Barney. “ODDSAC” is a fusion of images and music in which there is no clear separation: both the concept and the particular ideas that develop in the film correspond to Danny Perez AND the four –yes, four: Deacon is back– members of Animal Collective, but when it comes to shredding the work it’s worth it to differentiate between what absorbs the eye and what pounds on the ear.
As a “record” by Animal Collective, it doesn’t go much beyond “Merryweather Post Pavilion”: in their discography it will feature as a curious effort, like a daring back catalogue that helps to build the legend but doesn’t mark a point of inflection –it’s to their curriculum what “Drawing Restraint 9” (2005) is to Björk’s, that strange soundtrack for a visual piece by her husband, the aforementioned Barney– and on which there are traces of how Animal Collective used to be, how they are now and how they will be tomorrow if they let themselves be seduced by analogue improvisation. There are scenes in which it looks like Panda Bear has over control of the music and takes it to a marvellous and poppy level –at the beginning, at the end, at the whitest and wateriest moments of the film. But there are also noisy hallucinations with the only goal to get you out of your body and elevate your mind in a cage outside of time and space. Danny Perez contributes to all that perverse fantasy in a big way with a visual display that becomes violent to the eye the longer the film lasts. There is no “literal” point at almost any time –this is surrealism, remember– but some scenes stay in your mind like Dalí’s paintings: the black shoe polish coming out of the hole in a wall and a girl that is incapable to stop it, the final party in the cabin during which the girls look like they’re from the Manson Family, the murderous fondue that chokes a whole family, the streams of red and orange that colour the wall with pure texture. “ODDSAC” isn’t revolutionary nor perfect, it’s a consequence of years and years of video art and, basically, it’s the whim of five restless minds who felt like doing this and did it. It’s entertaining for an hour –it can even irritate or evoke ecstasy, depending on the viewer’s personality: it’s worth it to see it, that’s the moral.