You can pin much of the past decade's antic-indie and fluoro- campfire music (not to mention the Billboard-certified bridge line, as flogged by Gotye and Foster the People) on the collective shoulders of Animal Collective — Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Deakin, Geologist, names that sound less like pop stars than ham- radio handles. And that seems about right: Centipede Hz, their most sprawling album, is all about scouring the airwaves for coded signals and then sending them, scrambled, careening off into the night, like Numbers Stations patterns turned into glowing tracer bullets. And here is where the band differs from so many of its peers and progeny: On Centipede Hz, totality is a real thing, a Tower of Babel teeming with musical dialects, a Bartlett's of timbre and tape hiss and all the other artifacts that give pop history its heft, an electron-microscope trip into the grain of sound itself.
This is CGI on a human and a social scale, a handmade riposte to the wide-screen mayhem of big-tent EDM, turning earnest narcissism into a celebration of huge differences. "I'd like to embrace it all," sings Panda Bear, and so they do. Like some Magical Mystery Science Theater Tour 3000, it's an explosion of dog-eared sounds and styles, arcana and ephemera, a centipede stampede of Talmudic footnotes; a 4D flipbook of pop music's past/present/future colliding, Hadron-style, to create a soundtrack to the Singularity. As jubilant as end times gets, Centipede Hz is a John Philip Sousa march down Atlantic Avenue straight to the heart of Atlantis; it's a Drexciyan Noah's Ark whose freak flag bears Dr. Bronner's ecstatic credo: "All-One!" PHILIP SHERBURNE