Straddling the divide between pop and the avant-garde ought to render electronica duoConquering Animal Sound in a position of eternal compromise, taming their experimental impulses in the pursuit of pop truth. Yet, as their second album — and first for Chemikal Underground — demonstrates, Anneke Kampman and James Scott have little truck with contemporary music orthodoxy, from the process of composition and manufacture through to the multiple meanings that underpin the 11 proudly cerebral songs that make up On Floating Bodies.
Before we continue, three salient facts:
1. On Floating Bodies takes its title from Archimedes’ groundbreaking treatise on hydrostatics. 2. Every sound on the album is created, manipulated and polished by Kampman and Scott. No presets here. 3. The music of Conquering Animal Sound is a direct 50:50 split between Kampman and Scott.
A testament to the possibilities created by the machines and digital technology with which it was made, On Floating Bodies was created across a period of 18 months. The first stage was for the duo to assemble the musical vocabulary and sonic palette that would anchor the music to come, with Kampman sieving a plethora of lyrical ideas spanning cosmology, science, philosophy and semantics. Next, Kampman and Scott focused on constructing the skeleton of the record — texture, mood, rhythm, melody — before experimenting onstage. The record was completed in the studio, Kampman colouring unexpected spaces within the dense synthetic arrangements with her looped and layered vocal contributions, fully inhabiting the stereo picture.
The resulting music is fearless, futuristic and frosted, an alien landscape bookended by the sound of pulses, sea shells and a miniature tool-set dropping to the floor (Ultimate Heat Death Of The Universe) and a two-minute burst of queasy science-fiction (Inner/Outer/Other). This is 21st-century pop refracted through the prism of keen minds — atomised, deconstructed and reassembled; an ouroborous of ideas and ideals, endlessly innovating itself.
‘None of this will be difficult to those schooled in The Knife, or Niki and the Dove’s less-immediate work, but it’s far from cuddly electro-pop’ – BBC
Support comes from Shield Patterns. ‘Wandering electro-folk dreampop’, Shield Patterns’ songs are inspired by a combination of things heard, read, experienced, resulting in a sound that is dark and rhythmic, melancholy and fragile. The name Shield Patterns is an invented term derived from a compulsion to count, or to create habitual routines and personal ‘mantras’, used as protective forces from anxieties and fears.