"It's not my words you should follow/ It's your insight," guitarist David Portner sang at Avalon Wednesday night, punctuating the instructions with a soprano squeal.
The song, "Peacebone," from a forthcoming Animal Collective record, was a clear divination of the New York band's ethos - an emphasis on atmosphere over lyrical specifics, melody over plot, and the messy act of creation over a polished finished product. In a 90-minute concert that paused only twice (once for an encore, and once for a reconfiguration), it was also a rare respite from a sustained electronic storm.
Animal Collective, a band born in Baltimore and based in New York, has four official members, although the organization is loose. Portner, who goes by the stage name of Avery Tare, shares most of the vocal duties with Noah Lennox, or Panda Bear; Geologist (Brian Weitz) joined the pair for the Avalon set. The fourth musician, Deakin, or Josh Dibb, was absent.
But Lennox and Portner have more than enough presence to dominate a stage, and the best Animal Collective songs highlight the interplay between two distinct pop styles. Lennox, who recently released an ethereal solo album called "Person Pitch" under the Panda Bear moniker, sings in a wavering, glassy alto; Portner attacks the verses, barking each line.
Physically, too, the pair are an exercise in contrasts. On "Who Could Win a Rabbit," from the 2006 album "Sung Tongs," Portner trotted the length of the stage, shouting the familiar chorus - "rabbit or a habit / habit or real" - while Lennox peeked out from behind the stacks. Elsewhere, as on the cascading symphonics of "Fireworks," Geologist, Panda Bear, and Avery Tare joined in a sweaty snarl at the center of the stage, lashing out an assortment of drums, guitars, and synths.
The new Animal Collective album, "Strawberry Jam," is out Tuesday, but most of the songs have already leaked online. And fans have swallowed them up: The crowd sang along to the anthemic "Unsolved Mysteries" and knew "Peacebone" from the opening note.
Eric Copeland, a founder of Brooklyn band Black Dice, played a well-attended opening set. Alone on stage, huddled over a keyboard, Copeland strung together chunks of electro, fuzz, and feedback until the din was overwhelming. Then he deconstructed the din and started again.
Unlike Black Dice's aerated, looped electro, which allows listeners a handful of natural hooks, Copeland's work is intentionally violent - and at its worst, impenetrable.