Conquering Animal Sound - On Floating Bodies
Some moments can change everything. It's rare that I would have such a profound moment of epiphany with an album, but the new record from Conquering Animal Sound fell into place for me pretty much all at once, having crept up on me at a snail's pace before then. Despite the immediacy of the album, it took a while for it to make its proper impact, but once it did... well, I believe the right word is 'wow'. It's quite a step up from 2011's debut Kammerspiel (which was nominated for the SAY Awards last year), and should bring the duo further plaudits. Anneke Kampman and James Scott's music is a bridge between the worlds of electronica and pop, and this time they've made a surprisingly accessible album out of some rather lofty subject matter, with a song about 'the ultimate heat death of the universe' opening proceedings (and named just that), with such topics as hydrostatics and entropy popping up elsewhere.
The pair have previous in different musical projects, with Scott juggling his CAS duties with a similarly excellent turn as The Japanese War Effort - he released an album called It's All Downhere From Hill in September last year - and Kampman recording as ANAKANAK. The duo have been influenced by their extracurricular activities, but by plenty of other things, too. 'I'll Be Your Mirror' is reminiscent of Björk's poppier material, while 'Ipse' has an R&B feel to it at times. 'Warn Me' is arguably the most immediate moment on the album, and it has an infectious chorus to go along with it, too: 'My body is an island; come inside'. It's well worth taking Kampman up on her invitation, as she could just as easily be singing about On Floating Bodies itself. It really does seem to inhabit its own space at times.
At its heart, the album is meant to be listened to with pop ears, but it's unconventional enough that it can be enjoyed for so many other reasons, revealing more of itself with each listen until, suddenly, everything clicks and the whole thing falls into place. It's the sort of record that creates its own atmosphere, something which is most keenly felt on the album's most ambitious moments, such as 'Mimese', a song that's swept along by dazzling keyboard arpeggios and ghostly backing vocals. 'Treehouse', meanwhile, is a genuinely breathtaking five minutes, a dazzling slice of art-pop that leads into the blissful outro of 'Inner/Outer/Other', which initially seems too brief, lasting only two minutes, but on subsequent listens shows itself to be the perfect length. On Floating Bodies proves that CAS are making the kind of music that puts them leagues ahead of their peers.