Sunday, January 10, 2010

Animal Hospital - Memory

Label: Barge Recordings
Released: 2009
Style: Abstract, Rock, Post-Rock, Experimental

"The people behind Brooklyn's Barge imprint have clearly spent the last six months trying to work out how to follow up last year's jaw-dropping "Baby, It's Cold Inside" album from the oddly monikered 'The Fun Years', one of the most satisfying and immersive releases of the year. Their response? Why they've only gone and produced this astonishing, multi-layered epic from Kevin Micka, aka Animal Hospital. "Memory" is a record that engages with familiar techniques and proceeds to completely f*ck with the programme. The album starts with a shimmering duet for music box and guitar, laying the foundations for what's to follow. Except things don't quite develop in the manner you might expect if you're into this sort of delicate, engrossing home listening, "His Belly Burst" is up next and slowly evolves from the sound of a mournful, solitary Cello (beautifully played by Jonah Sacks), to a rumbling, droney, sometimes distorted mass of sound that brings to mind the post-post-rock of, say, the Constellation label, or Mogwai's quiet/loud blueprints but with a completely unfamiliar backbone shaped by electronic, experimental and classical traditions. By the time "2nd Anniversary" sweeps in it becomes hard to really identify what sort of album you're listening to, finding yourself in the presence of distilled, affected guitar noises that lie somewhere between late, treated John Fahey and Neil Young's amazing soundtrack for the film "Dead Man" - the dissonance at once jarring and deeply moving. In turn, "A Safe Place" sounds like a cross between Oval, Tortoise, Mika Vainio and Radiohead, rearranging and rewiring human sounds inside reverberating bass and malfunctioning electronics before Micka's voice resonates through the sparse elements to ground the music in a deep, mournful clearing. Fuelled by coffee and heartache and recorded in an old bank, an antiquated movie theater lobby, and various apartments around Virginia and Cape Cod, It's left to the 17 minute title track to close the album with perhaps its most astonishing and heart-wrenching segement. The opening once again seems indebted to Tortoise, but the unusual, wordless vocal layering introduces entirely different dimensions. 8 minutes in and things become quietly colossal, merging sweeping strings, twangy, edgy drops with extraordinary arrangements that keep you at once transfixed and disturbed. And that's the thing about this amazing album - it has all these different, wildly incompatible ideas that somehow come together and merge into eachother, making use of electronic devices, shelves of effects, delay units, as well as shiny guitar tones, vocal washes, and dramatic build-ups that create a unique sound you're unlikely to come across again despite all the familiar elements squeezed in. It's the realisation of one man's messed up vision, held together by things that shouldnt work but somehow really do. Just awesome." - Boomkat


1 Good Times (2:25)
2 His Belly Burst (17:31)
3 2nd Anniversary (4:28)
4 ...And Ever (12:33)
5 A Safe Place (4:43)
6 Nostalgia (1:42)
7 Memory (16:50)

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