“Something new with an old shape”
In 2011, Scottish folktronica act and loop pedal enthusiasts Conquering Animal Sound burst into the consciousness of the Scottish music scene with their first LP Kammerspiel, released on Gizeh Records. It was an experimental record to be listened to without distraction, attention focused on Anneke Kampman’s delicate vocals amidst a chaotic symphony of crackles, bells, and synth hums co-created with James Scott.
Kammerspiel was an album that instantly hooked me. It presented something completely different from what I had come to expect from Scottish music and it brought great pleasure to me to see the duo shortlisted for the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year award in 2012.
Off the back of their critical success, the wait for Conquering Animal Sound’s follow-up album has been mercifully short-lived with the release of ‘On Floating Bodies’ on Chemikal Underground Records last week. The duo’s second outing features the familiar clicks and glitchtronica that define the CAS sound, whilst retaining the focus on Anneke’s enchanting Bjork-like vocals – a genuinely unavoidable comparison, sorry, Anneke – at the forefront of every song. However, ‘On Floating Bodies’ is a fuller, more confident record which has broken free from the shackles which kept Kammerspiel so finespun.
Speaking to Stu Lewis about their latest LP on The Tidal Wave of Indifference, James exalts: “We wanted more overtly electronic elements…to create more rhythmic sounds, and that came out in quite a direct fashion.” ‘On Floating Bodies’ certainly achieves this, expanding on their pre-established sound with layers of electronic loops, chirps and chimes which are entirely more striking in comparison to their previous outing. The far-reaching ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ is rife with 8-bit frills and Super Mario-inspired notations that trick my brain into thinking that I’m listening to the layers of this song converge to a catharsis, inside a busy arcade.
‘On Floating Bodies’ takes a curious though pleasant turn in its second half as CAS’s new found confidence starts exhibiting surprisingly poppy hooks. ‘Gloss’, ‘Treehouse’ and ‘A Noise Remains’ are all evidence of this, the last of these in particular standing out as Anneke repeatedly proclaims the line “move back and back and forth” with authority. The lush melodies on these tracks showcase Anneke’s vocals in a way that will be alien to those who are unaware of her recent solo work as ‘ANAKANAK’ and further demonstrate the influence of Anneke and James’s solo projects on this record. James, of course, is the man behind the swash electronic sounds of
The Japanese War Effort.
The unique soundscapes that I fell in love with in ‘Kammerspiel’ are still present in ‘On Floating Bodies’ but they have been noticeably altered in accordance with a confidence and enthusiasm for music-making that the band has developed over the past 18 months. Anneke and James have managed to preserve the haunting qualities of CAS’s previous work, but have unfettered the electronic elements to instil more vibrant melodies and textures to their music.
This is by no means a reinvention of Conquering Animal Sound, though; it is a further expression of the qualities they possess which made people sit up and take notice.
On Floating Bodies is out now and available to purchase from Chemikal Underground Records.