I have long been of the opinion (and I suspect that I’m far from alone on these pages in thinking this) that the best record labels are those which are able to bring together bands with some kind of aesthetic similarity. Certainly the records released by my favourite labels over the years have, on the whole, tended to have a common thread which distinguishes them instantly as a product of their particular imprint. In recent years, one such label to have emerged to fit in with this particular penchant has been Leeds’ Gizeh Records, home to the likes of Glissando, Sleepingdog and Fieldhead. When a Gizeh release lands on your doormat you know that you’re reasonably likely to encounter something chilly and unearthly, but also something which more often than not will be a beautiful and enriching piece of work.
And so it is with Glasgow-based duo Anneke Kampman and James Scott, aka Conquering Animal Sound. Their debut album Kammerspiel is a ghostly collection of minimalistic beats, loops and fragile ambience, overlaid with Kampman’s beatifully frail vocal. Its delicateness and woozy air mean that it is a record which is best absorbed late at night, preferably at the point last thing when your brain is at its sleepiest. In this context it becomes almost lullaby-esque, with Kampman’s soft burr tailor-made for soothing away the mental aches of the daily cut and thrust.
Too often records made up of minimal components are misinterpreted as being gloomy, but this is unlikely to be a fate which befalls Kammerspiel, given the sunlit glow which bathes its sounds. Opening song ‘Maschines’ begins with a twinkling melody and builds gently like the breaking of the day, culminating in Kampman softly cooing “You are home”. As the album progresses, you come to see that the template of ‘Maschines’ is in fact the blueprint for much of Conquering Animal Sound’s work. Frequently their songs begin in timorous fashion, gradually layering more and more sounds on top as they build. Let’s be clear though, this isn’t to say that Kammerspiel is in any way guilty of being formulaic, because the band display a boundless creativity with the finer details throughout, a little snippet of tape hiss here, a dissonant hint of cello or a snatch of thickly-distorted vocal sample there, meaning you’re never really fully aware of where they’re taking you at any point.
In spite of its predilection for abstract noise, Kammerspiel is still at heart an album of songs and melodies which frequently follows the verse/chorus structure. Clearly, Conquering Animal Sound are more than just aimless experimentalists, because throughout there is a strong feeling that while you might not know what they are going to do next, they most certainly do. Probably the most naked song on the album is final track ‘Ira’, which dispenses with the effects, leaving the beauty and the melody of the song unadorned. It’s an interesting taster of what Conquering Animal Sound might be like were they a little more conventional, and while ‘Ira’ might be sufficiently pretty to stand on its own two feet, the contrast between it and much of the rest of the album illustrates the importance of the flourishes of the noises and samples.
With Kammerspiel, Conquering Animal Sound have simultaneously managed to capture on record the full depth of their creativity and imagination, as well as the inherent beauty of their sound. It is a wonderful piece of work which deseves to be cherished, and gives us far more than we might reasonably expect from anyone’s debut album.
8Paul Brown's Score