MINILOGUE: Animals (Cocoon Recordings)


Posted on May 21st 2008 09:12 pm

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Minilogue: Animals

Cocoon Recordings 2008
26 Tracks. 154mins46secs

From the word go, it has to be said that this record is at the very least a welcome surprise. Faced with the task of picking apart a two and a half hour longplayer from an obscure pair of Swedish minimal techno lovers, the prospect seemed both daunting and perhaps a little off-putting. How could anything so ostensibly stripped back warrant 154 minutes of listening time? One could probably get through a short novel in that period. Indeed, cinematic epics are often less drawn out. But the vast scale of the material here soon becomes academic, because Minilogue have delivered an album many would not have thought them capable of. After years spent releasing twelve inches for the DJ set, here they have constructed an album of quite breathtaking allure.

Animals is divided into two quite deliberately different parts – the before and after of a night out, in a way. The first takes us on a spare, tough journey through the well-remembered landmarks of minimal techno – nodding at Hawtin and Mills amongst others along the way. And it is at first glance little more than a well-crafted homage to the second wave of the Detroit techno scene. But peppered through the mix are tracks that disobey the template, from the plaintive prelude of Yesterday Bells to theteasing, vibrant rhythms of Hitchhiker’s Choice, a piece that superficially seems to tread familiar ground whilst at the same time reinvigorating the often tired conventions of the genre. The latter is full of dazzling changes of direction that in turn lead the way for much of the inventiveness that follows. Still others, like Hypnotized and In A Distance, take on well-tested ideas, and riddle them with menacing nuances. As across part one, the template is there, but only really as a point of departure.

If the album consisted only of its opening part, however, perhaps that would have been the end of the story. Some expertly timed twists on well-known themes, no doubt, but little more than that, surely. Yet this is where the album instead lifts off – or, to put it more accurately, begins to float away entirely. Animals part two is not merely a flipside to what has come before – it feels almost like the album of a completely different band. The beats vanish, the dark, minimal strains recede, and a mesh of complexities emerges. Brooding melodies interweave, collide and drift apart, while weird, contorted voices linger emptily beside unanswered telephones. If part one was found, part two is most certainly lost. And yet, far from the wallowing lament this could easily have become, we get instead a mix that ceaselessly rearranges itself into new forms, each of them more urgent and engaging than the last. Even at first listen, the power of these tracks is obvious.

Singling out any particular piece becomes almost irrelevant as each carefully constructed sound structure slots into the next. Instead the music seems to linger on certain notions that flicker briefly into life as the tracks slowly pass. From the impenetrable depths of one moment, we move to open, blue-skied ecstasies, before lonely organ solos merge with the delicate mechanics of a finger-picked guitar, moving the album along into entirely new realms. It’s difficult to pinpoint any moment where it all coalesces or approaches a climax, such is the sensation of space and timelessness. But it almost all feels jawdroppingly precious, the work of a band pushing on into new terrain. And whilst it is easy to be drawn in by the limpid watercolours that characterise the deft essence of this album’s second part, Animals is an record that many are going to find difficult to forget. Light, tender, delicate and brave – Animals is all of these things and more. But forget the adjectives. Just buy the album and see for yourself. Minilogue have arrived.


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