As slapdash appropriations of avant-garde cinema and ’70s rock movies go, Animal Collective’s “visual album” Oddsac isn’t half-bad. Along with filmmaker Danny Perez, the New York art-rock act spends 50 minutes combining shock imagery, backwoods mysticism, and abstract swirls of light and color, all set to music more in line with the dark tribal jams of Animal Collective’s early work than the symphonic pop explosions of Merriweather Post Pavilion. The film doesn’t have a narrative, except in spurts: Oddsac features men in robes and pasty makeup, washing white orbs in a rushing stream; a family eating toasted marshmallows by a campfire and getting coated in scalding goo; a woman in a rural cabin trying to stop a thick black liquid from pouring out of the walls; and still more creepy vignettes, linked by animation that resembles a particularly vivid acid trip (or a Stan Brakhage homage).
The whole project veers between painfully corny and genuinely stirring, much like the trippy interludes in music-themed midnight movies of old, like Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same or Neil Young’s Journey Through The Past. But it has a higher replay value than these sorts of experiments usually do, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the soundtrack is strong. Animal Collective indulges in a few too many noodle-y transitions that stretch on interminably, but the actual songs don’t sound like outtakes or afterthoughts; they’re as dense and transportive as AC’s best work. And secondly, Perez supports the songs with as many beautiful images as disturbing ones, and uses color especially well in the exterior shots, which make ordinary rocks and ponds look like pastel alien landscapes. “Visual album” is really the best way to describe Oddsac. It doesn’t work as a movie; it’s more an experience to dip in and out of, like a series of intense, unsettled afternoon naps.
Key features: Only what you supply yourself, if you get what we mean.