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Conquering Animal Sound

There were many jarring moments at 2011’s Glastonbury Festival. The presence of U2, obviously, of Coldplay and Mumford & Sons. The array of morons who felt that Radiohead’s set would be improved by their ceaseless commentary. The actual river of mud that flowed through the interstage area. But perhaps the greatest came midway though the Friday afternoon, as The Vaccines played to thousands and Two Door Cinema Club played to thousands and Cage The Elephant played to thousands and Glasgow two-piece Conquering Animal Sound played to about seven of us. Eight if we factor in the drunk man rolling in the mud at the side of the tent.

Sure, they’d only released their debut album four months earlier and yeah, they weren’t exactly front-page-of-the-NME fare, but still, within a lineup heavily tipped towards identikit bands playing identikit songs they deserved a wider audience. So too did Kammerspiel, the aforementioned debut and one of that year’s great underrated longplayers, (although not by DiS), a layered and evocative weave of glitchy loops and woozy minimalism threaded with Anneke Kampman’s gossamer vocals.

Maybe they’ll find it this year. On Floating Bodies doesn’t shift the template much but it does refine it, the song structures more pronounced and the rhythms less abstracted, more memorable but just as enigmatic. Whereas Kammerspiel opened low-in-key with the gently lapping Maschine, Ultimate Heat Death of the Universe is full-blooded and invigoured, synth-heavy and writhing, the duo – completed by programmer and instrumentalist James Scott –  waking from a slumber and looking to get combative.

The Future Does Not Require continues in the same vein, driving and beat-heavy with Kampman’s vocals clipped and slightly mechanical, as though Siri’s downed tools and headed out to Lucky Voice. Much more than on their debut it’s her voice that carries this, melodies vibrant and dancing over the bleeps and drops arrayed beneath, her accent and her vocal curl at times evoking a Vespertine-era Bjork. There’s a similar tread upon existential themes as well: We live out through our physiology/It seems quite evident that we are all alone opens Ipse above a bed of ambient textures and restrained guitar loops, the effect familiar but no less beguiling.

With its ebb and flow of harmonies and the prevalence of reverbed scrape and drone On Floating Bodies often assumes a dreamlike, insomniac quality, restless and shifting and slightly othered. At points it turns to nightmare: Treehouse is shadowed and claustrophobic, its loops pitch-shifted and its rhythms tense. Mimese backs its simple refrain with a wave of choral voices, rising and swelling until they drown it beneath.

It’s consistently strong, this album, but arguably peaks midway. Both Gloss and A Noise Remains weld infectious choruses to dancefloor momentum, clear singles that should – if our music industry retains any semblance of meritocracy – see the band widen their appeal considerably beyond the 4,000-odd listeners currently cited on LastFM.

But it doesn’t though, does it – even a cursory glance through the lineups of summer festivals or the bleak litany of Brit and NME award winners shows us that talent and ability and excellent songs have little bearing on an artists’ status and reach next to their knack for contentious pull-quotes or the ease in which they can be locked into an emergent scene. Heck, Conquering Animal Sound don’t even have a punable name. Yet On Floating Bodies is a striking illustration of how easily stunning artists can fall far below the radar, lost beneath the indieboy clamour and the bubbled-up hype and the frenzied scrums chasing whatever’s screaming loudest.

8/10

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