Last Night: Animal Collective at the Boulder Theater

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 The Boulder Theater, Boulder Better Than: Most shows going through Boulder these days.

Brooklyn's Black Dice opened this show in what has lately become their typical fashion. Long gone, I suppose, were the harsh, brutally abrasive textures of old, replaced by something more, well, musical. Nonetheless, you're not likely to hear Black Dice on commercial radio anytime soon, because the threesome still blasted out sculpted chunks of jagged white noise, the guitar was still indistinguishable from a synth, and the vocals remained the same drawn-out caterwaul and gutsy bursts of words. The projections behind the band reflected the same aesthetic -- a collage/barrage of abruptly shifting textures and patterns, some a-swirl.

At times the songs were hypnotically repetitive, but this is not an act to let you get comfortable with its music.

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Throughout their set something bugged me, and by the end it finally occurred to me: What I was hearing was the equivalent to what Skinny Puppy had accomplished in its 1988 album, Rabies. Except that Black Dice isn't scary or particularly dark, and there's definitely more to dance to. Black Dice also had the benefit of learning from two more decades of electronic music and noise. All things considered, I saw a trio that were far better than what I saw on the documentary Kill Your Idols. Before taking the stage, Animal Collective played a sample from the intro to Mork & Mindy. Hopefully more than a handful of people got the obvious joke. The set then began with the pastoral grandeur of "In the Flowers." On the back wall was a drape of the pattern from the cover of Merriweather Post Pavillion, and the synth stations of the three visible band members (Avey Tare, Geologist and Panda Bear) were draped in white cloths, which filtered the multi-colored lights hidden inside and orchestrated to flicker with the music.

In the center, above the band, was a giant, white beach ball-looking object, upon which various appropriate images were projected. It looked like an eye with a blazing sun for a pupil along with striated colors to make the sphere look like Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Earth, depending on when you looked.

The set consisted of selections from a broad spectrum of the act's career, but all of it benefited from the Collective's current musical abilities, so that sounds of moving water became as musical as Avey Tare's expansive guitar work or Panda Bear's beautifully warped vocals. Many bands use texture and atmosphere as much as melody and rhythm, but few do it as well as Animal Collective did on this night. After a thrillingly panoramic ten-song set, we were treated to a three-song encore. The set list, as best as I could figure out, was as follows: 1. In the Flowers 2. Guys Eyes 3. What Would I Want Sky 4. My Girls 5. Slippi 6. Daily Routine 7. Lablakley Dress 8. Fireworks 9. No More Runnin' 10. Brother Sport

Encore: 11. Banshee Beat 12. Also Frightened 13. Summertime Clothes

Bias: I believe that Animal Collective don't just write innovative music, but they also exercise their imaginations regularly. Random Detail: I ran into The Fridge Magnet outside the show. By the Way: Unlike downtown Denver, the parking meters in Boulder go to 7 p.m.

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