Nimble Animal: Dumb Dirge
- Dominic Stephens has been keeping himself busy, so busy in fact that he hasn't had any time to really do anything with his third musical venture, Nimble Animal, which first slithered out of the birthing canal of his brain early in 2011, spotted at some Kyu performances and linked to shadowy experiments in live looping. You may be more familiar with Dom's other two gigs, the blissful beats of Outerwaves and, of course, those crazy indie-art-rocking kids, Oh Ye Denver Birds. Of the two, Nimble Animal has much more in common with Outerwaves, but is just that bit more odd than the both of them put together. On Nimble's li'l presser it candidly admits that Dom has been checking out the likes of madly psychedelic dronesters Sun Araw and Peaking Lights and slyly appreciating German hypno-chill, too, a-la Jurgen Muller. From the opening of Nimble Animal's debut, Dumb Dirge, it's the Sun Araw influence that is the most evident. It's in the sauntering rhythm that sounds like a camel with a back problem, overlaid with bubbling electronic effects and splattered across a backdrop of sweetly echoing synthesiser. There are also various other burps and bloops and what sounds like a very modified Dom Stephens moaning and groaning contentedly for the duration. The effect, for me, is very similar to Sun Araw: extremely traumatising until, like you were drowning, you just give in and let the music suck you under. Then everything's quite blissful, your brain shooting you up with endorphins until you expire, shortly thereafter. Track number two, XIX, takes a lot of the same ingredients but adds an urgent sounding synth melody that Giorgio Moroder would love, pairs it with an echoing snare beat and we're in an 80s synth-rock anthem, thoroughly completed by a vocal passionately intoning 'ah-so', over and again, sounding quite a lot like Phil Collins. From here the album shifts back into the slowly, awkwardly tripping rhythms, but eases off on the Araw-esque intensity. Luvbel even features a recognisable vocal-lead twining sweetly with synthetic bells and is something gently, easily listenable. As Stereo Canyon with it's straight-up rock beat rolls around and it's pleasantly amorphous cloud of harmony and texture I was starting to think of things like that mesmerising rocker on the Ghostly International roster, Tycho. The Dumb Dirge chooses this moment to launch a sneak attack, a 10 minute monster of a tune called Yabbies that chucks on a skittering dance beat, uneasy, jagged melodies and vocal grunts that sooner or later metamorphose into the despeartely repeated words 'please change', like a tiny slice of a Xiu Xiu song stuck endlessly in the same groove. It's like the song itself can't even take it, disintegrating half-way through before building back to a froth that is nearly but not quite as frenetic as before and featuring Dom bellowing something that sounds uncomfortably like 'teeth'. With such a domineering centrepiece you kind've feel this is something Nimble Animal wants to show off. Coming out the end of it, I'm not exactly sure why, maybe I need to listen to it some more. Dom quickly makes amends with another slice of highly-reverby but very enjoyable 80s synth-pop, called Any Other Day, undoubtedly the most radio-ready thing here. Not to be accaused of losing his edge, he finishes Dumb Dirge with what would have been six minutes of very tuneful synth melody, but lets the volume peak brutally; still, throwing in speed-chiming bells and a pristine echo of the same melody is actually a bit of a masterstroke, capturing perfectly the idea of using broken bits of sound to create something quite beautiful. There are enough moments like that, here, to make you really sit up and take notice of Nimble Animal. I still think more of it as a Camel with scoliosis than some dancing fox, but one with, ah, a great big pair of beautiful, butterfly wings? It may be a misbegotten freak, but it's one that surely grabs your attention.
- Chris Cobcroft.