Friday, July 20, 2012

PLANK! Animalism

I was first tipped off to the ‘kraut-math-rock’ of Withington’s Plank! just prior to their debut single ‘La Luna’ in summer 2010. A subsequent AA single (‘Self Harm’ / ‘Pig Sick’) followed from the trio - bassist Ed Troup, drummer Johnny Winbolt-Lewis and guitarist Dave Rowe - on Static Caravan in early 2011. Those latter two songs are included here however ‘La Luna’ has been re-recorded (or at least re-mixed) for "Animalism". Despite thinking it near-perfect – and loving its cut-up David Cronenberg video – I can see why. For the eight tracks here represent a slight shift from the guitar-heavy riffing juggernaut that is the earlier incarnation of that first single.

There’s still guitar a-plenty on “Animalism” but it can sound like a close relative of the synthesiser – not only do the two intertwine and joust throughout, it is easy to mistake one for the other, for the divide between processed and natural to be removed. Also the jagged energy of that single is spread more evenly around: “Animalism” is more about twitch and texture than full-on sonic bludgeon, more 80s synth film soundtrack chase sequence than a series of furious rock 45s. But it’s not without intensity. Both opener ‘Dying For Pigs’ and the multi-part ‘King Rat’ subtly ratchet up the ferocity of the math-rock sparring and the fidgety, frayed guitars. The shimmering textures of ‘Alpha Dog’ are more measured and reflective; ‘Self Harm’ has a soothing quirkiness before unleashing some Battles-like clipped pulses.

The distinction between these instrumentals can be subtle – back to the soundtrack analogy. Also the animal titles are misleading. For all those wildlife references “Animalism” sounds more like a well-drilled piece of machinery in operation, like multi-tool urban komische with some low-level prog tendencies, rather than nature idylls and homage to the four-legged. Although the album is grounded rather than grandiose it is not without ambition and concludes with the nine-minute ‘Moolicks’ an epic of repetitive revving guitar patterns of which there is nothing bovine or slow-moving.

Think Fugazi crossed with Slint crossed with Stereolab crossed with awesome” was the memorable Guardian Guide review of ‘La Luna’. To update that: “Animalism” is more “Battles crossed with John Carpenter crossed with Can crossed with awesome”. Two years ago, I said of Plank! “I’m looking forward to seeing how this translates live”. What followed was twenty-four months of near-misses, late arrivals and clashes. The release of “Animalism” is accompanied by a launch gig at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen on Friday 27 July. And of course to continue that pattern of misfortune, I can’t make it. One day, one day...

Animalism [BUY]

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