Throwback Session: Animal Collective live on MBE in 2016

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If you’ve caught me haunting the airwaves in the deep-sea depths of the late night, I can only assume two things are true: 1.) you’ve stayed up well past your bedtime and your parents are furious, and 2.) we both share an appreciation for music that celebrates all things wonky, eccentric, and adventurous. There’s an inherent chronological context for strange and daring music in the nebulous hours of the morning that I simply love.

One of my greatest pleasures in radio, both as a fan and as a KCRW DJ, is when this intersection of accessibility and inventiveness crawls out of the way-early AM and makes its way to Morning Becomes Eclectic. Over the years, we’ve heard brilliantly imaginative in-studio sets from the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Kate Tempest, and Flying Lotus. However, one of my favorite performances (cosmic or otherwise) comes from 2016 — when Eric J. Lawrence hosted Animal Collective at the world-famous Village Studios in West Los Angeles. 

Around this time, the band was promoting their latest album Painting With, a kaleidoscopic twelve-track effort fit to melt any fan’s mind into a healthy goop of grey matter. I was volunteering at KCRW and was lucky enough to be invited to fetch coffee, hang out, and generally be a beacon of admiration and appreciation for the band during their performance. And admire and appreciate I did, as Animal Collective effortlessly executed a set both sonically compelling and visually perplexing, leaving me sitting in my parked car afterward, wondering “how the hell did they do that?”

You’ll find there’s plenty of “how the hell” moments in the band’s 30-minute set. How they hell did they coordinate the vocal cannons between Panda Bear and Avery Tare in “Lying in the Grass”? How the hell did they find the sample of KCRW’s very own Chery Glaser talking about dinosaurs in “Hocus Pocus”? How the hell did they decide to turn out a cover of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’s 1966 hit “Jimmy Mack” at the end of their performance?

I wish I had the answers back then, and four years later I’m still left wondering —although, at the end of the day, I suppose that’s the beauty of this set. It’s weird, confusing, lush, gorgeous, and glittering; there’s a little something for everyone. Whether or not you’re able to put your finger on exactly what it is might be the point. Press play at any time of day, enjoy the music, and let your imagination wander (full-length performance video can be seen here).

Animal Collective performed a Morning Becomes Eclectic session at the Village Studios in West Los Angeles in 2016. Photo by Brian Feinzimer.