Minilogue - Animals

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  • Minilogue's Marcus Henriksson and Sebastian Mullaert from Malmö, Sweden, seem particularly interested in revisiting, and revising, history. Nowadays they're essentially minimal producers, but their early progressive trance days never seem far away, no matter how absurd the connection. (This may prove minimal’s most lasting legacy: its influence upon other styles has indeed proved dramatic. Few from the ceaseless deluge of lackluster, identikit minimal releases churned out each week are likely to be remembered – although their volume may – but now we can listen to music as ridiculous as trance and enjoy it.) Tracks such as ‘Girl from Botany Bay’ and ‘Space’ for Wir and Traum rein in these early blustery excesses in line with contemporary reductionist codes, and the results are staggering. Animals, their debut LP for Cocoon, performs a similar feat but on a much grander scale, viewing the wider history of house and techno through minimal goggles, and after 80 largely successful minutes of that there’s another 80 minutes devoted to ambient. Animals is firmly progressive in form and length, recalling both drum n’ bass at its most overblown and seventies progressive rock. Yet their revisionism is subtle, keeping to a strict, linear rhythmic template with frequently wonky analogue melodic flourishes, familiar from 'Elephant's Parade'. If earlier tracks hinted at a trademark sound, here it becomes firmly established, almost to the point of cliché. These stumbling bleeps first show up on 'Loud', jazzy careening tones and a deformed Jews harp anchored to bleak pads, later giving way to funky Metro Area house. The preceding 'Hitchhiker's Choice' takes on Basic Channel dub techno, as did their earlier 'Birdsong', and the results are similarly enthralling. Opening literally with birdsong '33,000 Honeybees' is the barest thing here, a simple acid motif tweaked over an empty drum track, moving through Plastikman and Studio 1 into something less blunt and more clearly modern. The first half of 'We All' could be written by Herbert, and 'Hypnotized' is like the snappiest Farben track, but for all these explorations it’s always Minilogue at the helm, and they're on good form. A lull at the halfway mark signifies an intermission of sorts, with too much space given in 'View of a Juggling Ball' and 'Giant, Hairy Spiders' for rambling synth blather and limp electro patterns, but the penultimate 'Animals' is a joy, and the final 'In A Distance' erases any doubt, a reverberant, aqueous undercurrent over which crisp rhythmic lines unfold. Glorious. Releasing a second disc of 'ambient' music is certainly bold, and it’s definitely the lesser work. The fluffy synths which occasionally crept into disc 1 are here left to roam free, and it isn't until the fourth track that we have something resembling a finished piece. 'Six Arms and One Leg' however is a decent piece of rustic trip-hop, a lazy vocal draped over rimshots, guitar and upright bass recalling Buck 65. 'Swamp Op' is barren hip-hop like early DJ Krush, 'Europhonia' pairs rain and static with delayed speech, and the three-part 'Stations' moves from twee soft-focus melodies through darker Rechenzentrum terrain, emerging jazzy with brushed drums and a droned melodica. The ambient title is therefore misleading, and those expecting post-Eno Pop Ambient bliss will be disappointed; for all the aimless synth swirls and lengthy beatless bridges, this is more concerned with the scratchy, head-nodding bedroom beats of Boards of Canada and Morr Music, the kind their dance fans are likely to put on after a night on the tiles. Sticking with this to the finish is a pretty hard slog, and it could certainly have used trimming – there are few moments I'd lose from the dance disc. But the decision to join tracks makes listening to one artist for 80 minutes a lot easier, particularly when the individual moments are of such quality. Properly edited, this could be one of the albums of the year, and with its faults Minilogue are all the more intriguing.
  • Tracklist
      CD1 01 Yesterday Bells 02 Cow, Crickets And Clay 03 Hitchhiker’s Choice 04 Loud 05 We All 06 33000 Honeybees 07 Jamaica 08 View Of A Juggling Ball 09 Giant, Hairy Super Monsters 10 Hypnotized 11 Animals 12 In A Distance CD2 01 Old Water 02 Windows 03 City Lights 04 Six Arms And One Leg 05 Swamp Op 06 In The Shade Of The Sun 07 Stations I 08 Stations II 09 Stations III 10 Even The Wind Seemed In Deep Sleep 11 Europhonia 12 Feeling In Spring Beside The Dressing Table 13 Seconds (Colour & Sound) 14 Outro