Animal Collective Stages a Coral Orgy for Ocean Preservation

Animal Collective joins the Coral Orgy.
Animal Collective joins the Coral Orgy.
Photo Courtesy of LoyalT Management

The only thing shocking or scandalous about Coral Orgy is that it took this long for such a title to pop up in Animal Collective's repertoire. Browsing through the band's discography and song titles is an extended exercise in absurdity and surrealism, with names pulled straight from the pages of William S. Burroughs' cut-up technique. Fitting in comfortably alongside the likes of "Moo Rah Rah Rain," Centipede Hz, and the aquatic-themed Danse Manatee, Coral Orgy is colorful and evocative; in other words, it's quintessential Animal Collective.

More than just its chuckle-inducing name, Coral Orgy stands to go down as the most intimate visit the bizarre pop band has paid to Miami yet. Hosted by Borscht Corp. and III Points in celebration of the tenth Borscht Film Festival, the event is described as "an audiovisual meditation on the secrets behind the sexual reproduction of corals, and an invocation towards the human quest of unlocking them." The hourlong set, comprising new material written specifically for the event, will be performed by Brian Weitz, Josh Dibb, and Dave Portner, better known to audiences as Geologist, Deakin, and Avey Tare (Noah Lennox, otherwise known as Panda Bear, is sitting this one out).

The visual component of Coral Orgy, namely the projections of psychedelic coral reefs that will engulf the New World Center, will come courtesy of Coral Morphologic, the Miami-based art-science duo of Colin Foord and Jared McKay. The performance is aimed at raising awareness for the work done by nonprofits such as the Coral Restoration Foundation, SECORE, and Project Coral, all organizations that are dedicated to protecting and preserving coral reefs.

Coral Orgy is the latest in a series of collaborations between Animal Collective and Coral Morphologic, a relationship that stretches back to the beginning of the decade. "We made [Oddsac, Animal Collective's visual album] in 2010, and that screened in Miami. I don't think I was at that one, but we would show up sometimes to do Q&As at the screenings," Weitz says from his Washington, D.C., home. "Josh, I believe, was at that one."

"Colin just kind of popped up to me at the screening we were doing in Miami and handed me a disc of stuff that they'd put together," Dibb confirms from the band's hometown of Baltimore. That stuff was a visual documentation of Miami's coral reefs with a heavy psychedelic bent. No strangers to the intersection of trippy visual spectacles and the natural world, Weitz and Dibb were taken by the work and struck up a friendship with Foord and McKay.

The first collaboration between the band and Coral Morphologic was "Man O War," a brief clip illustrating the tendrils of a Portuguese man-of-war's tentacles. Weitz, who holds a master's degree from Columbia University in marine and environmental policy, provided the soundtrack for the varicolored video. With what seems like a scuba regulator and soft, water-drenched chords that wouldn't sound out of place on a Nicolas Jaar record, Weitz' more ambient sensibilities proved to be a perfect fit for Coral Morphologic's aesthetic.

Ardent divers themselves, Weitz and Dibb went on to join Foord in July 2014 for a scuba-diving expedition in the Flower Garden Banks, a series of coral reefs located roughly 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico.

"[Colin] had modified these underwater flashlights to emit this very specific type of blue light and used those in combination with wearing a yellow filter over your mask — and likewise over the camera lens — and that's what really highlights those really crazy hypercolor elements of coral," Dibb explains. "And so we did a bunch of dives for a few days, and the few that we got to do at night, we were able to film a bunch of that stuff... We got a bunch of that footage, and then we were sitting on that for a long time, and they kept on coming up with different ideas of ways to use it."

Footage from the trip would eventually be edited by McKay and released in October 2015 as, appropriately, Flower Garden Banks, a video accompanying a 23-minute jam culled from Animal Collective's sessions for the band's most recent album, last year's Painting With. It was around this time that the seeds for Coral Orgy were planted.

"[Colin] was the one who pitched it to us: 'Would you guys be into doing a site-specific project where we project footage and you guys make some music?'" Dibb recounts. "It came together pretty easily. There wasn't a lot of discussion beyond 'We like your footage; I'm sure you'll do something cool.'"

"None of us live in the same place, but around the top of this year, we each started sending around ideas to each other... But we didn't know what would work, and we hadn't really seen the footage yet either," says Weitz, detailing the creative difficulties posed by geographic distance. "We set up a Dropbox folder that we could share with Coral Morphologic, and then they uploaded all the various clips and things they're thinking of using. And then the three of us — Josh and Dave and I — we got together at Dave's house, and we set up a projector and we threw all the clips into one long loop, and then we just spent the weekend jamming on all the various ideas and picked out the ones that we thought worked the best."

The band will convene with Coral Morphologic in Miami this week to rehearse the event, no doubt to fine-tune the synchronization between the music and the mélange of coral sex that will unfold around them. As for what Animal Collective fans and coral voyeurs can expect, Weitz and Dibb say Coral Orgy harks back "to a kind of older vibe with [Animal Collective], or a more ambient approach to things."

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"There's a little bit of singing. Dave sings on a few tracks, but it's not like it's a really crazy, vocal-heavy set. It's a lot of instrumental stuff, and the vocal stuff has a few peaks, but it's definitely not the highlight or the focal point of the music," Dibb says. "It's really meant to be like a jam as much as possible."

Besides the exciting prospect of scoring coral porn for a good cause, Weitz and Dibb remain fascinated by the Sunshine State and the plethora of abnormalities it offers.

"No, there's something with Florida. I don't know if I can put it into words," Weitz remarks. "Since the '90s, we've been paying attention to the weirdness and the uniqueness of Florida. We always find touring down there doesn't play by anybody else's rules, and you never know even if people are gonna show up. It's a place you can't really get a handle on."

Animal Collective
With Hot Sugar and Otto von Schirach. 6 p.m. Friday, February 24, at New World Center, 500 17th St., Miami Beach; 305-673-3330; nws.edu/new-world-center. Tickets cost $44.33 via coralorgy.frontgatetickets.com.

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New World Center

500 17th St.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

305-673-3331

nws.edu/new-world-center


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