CHRIS DOOKS: The Aesthetic Animals Album (Benbecula Records)


Posted on May 2nd 2008 12:27 am

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Chris Dooks: The Aesthetic Animals Album

The Aesthetic Animals Album
Benbecula Records 2008
10 Tracks. 39mins43secs

Strange and elusive animal, is Chris Dooks. His first incarnation was in the shape of Bovine Live, a fiercely experimental and eclectic project which saw him transmit from his bedroom, via the Internet, and collaborate with musicians from around the world. Not unusual these days, but back when Social Electrics was recorded, between 1997 and 1999, the process was still pretty new and, as broadband hadn’t yet become the norm, not perhaps the most obvious choice for this kind of endeavours. With this album, released on the ever-excellent Bip-Hop, Dooks worked from found sounds and electronics, which he threw bouncing around on the web and which, caught and treated by a myriad of other like-minded artists, where sent back and assembled into a coherent body of work. Followed a handful of contributions to one of Bip-Hop’s home brewed compilations and a collaboration with German artist Frank Bretschneider, AKA Komet, for the first in Bip-Hop’s short-lived Reciprocess series.

Around the same time, Dooks published a record made up entirely of environmental sounds and excerpts of conversations and commentaries sourced from the Northern Region Film And Television Archive. To Look North was an addictive sonic testament which gave the impression that Dooks had gone behind the stories and stumbled upon a parallel universe where nonsensical phrases were looped until they told their own stories. The project acted in many ways as a sonic extension to Dooks’s work as a filmmaker. Voices and found sounds were also the core elements of You Know You Love Something Little, an album published in 2002 on Lost Vessel. Since, while Dooks has been busy on various artistic fronts, their had been very little music coming out of his Edinburgh retreat, apart for a couple of tracks for the excellent Marcia Blaine School For Girls Some Paths Lead Back Again compilation published in 2005.

The Aesthetic Animals Album sees Dooks take a completely different approach, swapping cut up vocal samples for oblique folk songs and surrealist poetry, each track using a particular animal as central theme to tell stories as abstract and captivating as that of To Look North. The listener will find, in no particular order, penguins, a swan, a salmon, a manatee locked in a perpetual aquatic orgasm and a male human being, brought back down, thanks to alcohol, to its animal state for the occasion. Behind these are real news stories which have been processed through Dooks’s mind and regurgitated in forms that turn them on their heads and shape them into proper little life tales.

This record is every bit as unique as Dooks’s previous recordings. While the vast majority of the tracks here are acoustic, recorded with just guitar and voice, there are still traces of Dooks’s past, especially on The Mouse and The Salmon, where the man swaps guitar for piano and processes both music and elements of dialogues to create wonderfully abstract little pieces.

It is difficult to sum up in words what Chris Dooks does with this record, and the album is quite a weird piece of work, which requires some investment from the listener’s perspective, but it is ultimately a wonderful and dreamy record which, very much like his previous projects, sits somewhere outside of reality.


Icon: arrow Chris Dooks | The Bovine Life Support System | Benbecula Records

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