Friday, May 17, 2013

Album Review: Conquering Animal Sound - On Floating Bodies

Album Rating: B+
For better or for worse, there are now more ways than ever for fledgling artists to make their presence felt within the music industry. Some embark on endless and often costly promotional campaigns, securing exposure through means such as online advertising, radio interviews and television performances. Others may receive a leg up in the form of handy contacts or well-placed relatives, while some even stoop to the moral trough of organised competitions - be they huge, multi-million franchises like The X-Factor, or merely the opportunity to land a prestigious festival slot. The most 'credible' option, however, is to bypass all of these steps, and instead gain recognition either through sheer hard work, or simply being too good to ignore - Glasgow's Conquering Animal Sound being a prime recent example in both cases.

Formed in 2008, Anneke Kampman and James Scott's inventive electronic sounds floated largely under the radar until the release of debut LP Kammerspiel, via Leeds-based indie Gizeh Records. A glorious hub of inspiration and creativity, the set was a minor revelation, earning the duo an unlikely nomination for the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year prize, not to mention the attention of legendary hometown label Chemikal Underground, who promptly signed them up ahead of this sophomore. A central component of the nation's influential late '90s scene, the label provided a base from which legendary acts like Mogwai, Arab Strap and The Delgados flourished, and remains relevant to this day through new discoveries such as RM Hubbert, The Unwinding Hours and The Phantom Band; a guard of excellence On Floating Bodies could not be more at home amongst.

An ideal equilibrium of the pair's respective talents, each of its tracks is built on a bubbling base of loops derived from both samples and a weird and wonderful instrumental assortment. At times, this woozy pallet isn't wholly dissimilar from countrymen Boards of Canada, but it's through Kampman's vocals that the best reference point arises; her seductive song adding a dash of Scottish spice to Bjork's distinctive stutter. It's a resemblance that's undeniable, but since when has evoking the Icelandic queen ever been a bad thing? The effectiveness of this style is perhaps best displayed in the early stages - her voice carrying the likes of "Ultimate Heat Death of the Universe" and "The Future Does Not Require" whilst revealing a vibrant underlying pop foundation which is retained even in the record's least familiar expanses.

In a wider context, however, On Floating Bodies is the sound of Conquering Animal Sound coming out of their shell; emerging as a more confident entity and optimising practically every one of Kammerspiel's positive traits (and there were a fair few of them). The result could even be said to resemble a defining statement - a conclusion which might sound premature at this early stage, but one that's validated by the wonderful sonic identity they've already carved for themselves. Nowhere is this more evident than "I'll Be Your Mirror," the swooning highlight whose elegant development into a layered hook-laden masterclass depicts a duo who're already operating at a truly superlative level. Teasing fresh, intrinsic hooks with each new listen, it's a record that's every bit as good as its predecessor, and one which should only enhance the reputation of a group whose progress to date could scarcely have been more admirable.



1. Ultimate Heat Death of the Universe
2. The Future Does Not Require
3. Warn Me
4. No Dream
5. I'll Be Your Mirror
6. Gloss
7. A Noise Remains
8. Ipse
9. Mimese
10. Treehouse
11. Inner/Outer/Other

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