Album Review: Conquering Animal Sound - On Floating Bodies
James Scott and Anneke Kampman are now on album number two under the guise of Conquering Animal Sound. After debut album Kammerspiel was released on Leeds-based Gizeh Records, the mighty Chemikal Underground took notice and snapped up the Glasgow-based duo for their second album, due on 18th March. James Scott may be familiar to some outwith CAS, having released under the name The Japanese War Effort, while Anneke has released material under the moniker ANAKANAK.
On Floating Bodies opens with the brilliantly named 'Ultimate Heat Death of the Universe'. There's a strong beat over lots of background chatter. The feeling is one of receiving a warm aural embrace as the sound washes over you. The beat leads into a really nice vocal, which at times seems at odds with the beat and tempo, but which is exactly what makes the track interesting. It's a warm and comforting opening which waxes and wanes throughout. Pretty much the opposite of the ultimate heat death of the universe I'd say, which sounds a tad more painful. 'The Future Does Not Require' has a bit more space. The vocal comes in earlier over the sparse soundscape. The beat builds up underneath the vocal and while the music is excellent and very complimentary of the vocal, it's the vocal that shines. It's effortlessly beautiful and a real joy to listen to.
'Warn Me' kicks in with a fuzzy, bass heavy intro. There's some really good percussion in the background. The track builds in intensity to the chorus, then drops off on the verses. It never gets crazy though. It's subtle, built on the beat that underpins the song. One of the better aspects for me is the production on the vocals. It works really well here, with some nice sampled vocals to accompany the main vocal. The vocal dominates on 'No Dream', while soft, gentle sounds wash over the track punctuated by a double beat. There are little bleeps and blips sparking all over the track, which on the whole has a dreamlike quality. Again, the sampled vocal acting as a backing vocal works really well.
'I'll Be Your Favourite' washes over you from the outset. Long notes pass over you like sonic waves. Little electronic sparkles join in just before the Anneke's vocal comes in. Bar the beeps and bloops, the tempo is fairly sedate. A few minutes in the beat kicks in, lifting the tempo slightly. The electronic wizardry really shines on this song, adding real depth and texture to the song. A subtle bass note underpins it all and true to the name, this is most definitely an early favourite. 'Gloss' opens with a drawn out sigh, repeated, over a stuttering beat. The main vocal comes in over both, while there's some tape hiss, hints of percussion and drawn out electronic flourishes. There's a myriad of electronic trickery in this track, keeping it really interesting and adding lots of depth and character. Mr Scott is something of a magician at this kind of thing.
There's a steady beat and barely heard sound akin to a hum at the beginning of 'A Noise Remains'. Add in some tape hiss and a vocal and it's a good head-nodding start. There's even a sound that resembles a typewriter or a keyboard, yet it slots right in and feels natural. There are lots of sampled vocals in there, lower in the mix than the main vocal which give the song more character. In short, another favourite that keeps my foot tapping away for the duration. 'Ipse' is a soothing song. Lots of electronic activity with a varied vocal create a nice leisurely pace. The soundscape is quite rich in texture and very chilled. These two certainly know how to craft songs that are both compelling and which also reveal more with each listen, such is the complexity of the music at times.
There's almost no pause and it's into 'Mimese'. Another more relaxed affair, the music rises and falls, with some really nice vocal work. It creates quite a diverse soundscape and the better moments come when Anneke's vocal is doubled up through samples. James provides excellent accompaniment to these moments though. I don't want to be appearing to play favourites after all. 'Treehouse' opens with a sound like a computer about to go insane. A beat pounds ominously alongside the vocal. There's a lot of different sounds thrown into the mix. A guitar like riff and the electronic equivalent of a steel drum being two my mind may have made up. Regardless of what my untrained ear picked up at times, they all coalesce into another complex and compelling composition.
'Inner/Outer/Other' marks the end of the album. To mirror my own disappointment, the beat is a bit mournful and a touch depressed, especially with a drawn out sound that feels like a cry or a moan of pain. In contrast the vocal is light and hopeful and gradually overcomes the darker aspects of the song. The contrast works really well as the more uplifting vocal fights to dispell that moan of despair. It's all over too quickly in an electronic screach though. I had high hopes when I put this album on, being a fan of The Japanese War Effort and if anything I enjoyed this even more than I thought possible. Generally speaking I'm not a massive fan of electronic music, but James Scott manages to do some incredibly creative things with his gadgets that strike a chord with me. Under the guise of Conquering Animal Sound you get Anneke Kampman too and her vocals are beautiful and measured, never settling into one particular vocal stlye and together they have made a really great and hugely creative album. Most impressive.
You can check out opening track 'Ultimate Heat Death of the Universe' below.
Artist page at Chemikal Underground