• plank! Animalism (CD, £8.25)

    label: akoustik anarkhy

    If the first introduction was fleeting, the second will definitely be more sustained. Manchester-based trio Plank!’s first studio recordings were designed to be short, sharp impacts that twisted and beguiled the senses before withdrawing into the North West suburbs again as hastily as they’d emerged. First their self-titled EP and then the double-A side ‘Self Harm/Pig Sick (Remix)’ – both through aA (Akoustik Anarkhy) - led to a flurry of shows at festivals including Green Man, Manchester International Festival, as well as supports with The Phantom Band, Sleepy Sun, Fuijya & Miyagi among others. Yet they then disappeared again, seeking to refine their Krautrock-based chameleonic sound. *That refinement has come by way of expansion; everything on Animalism has been given more time to breathe, to find its own path and explore. Part of that came, says the group’s Johnny Winbolt-Lewis, due to their decision to record his drums in the echoing expanse of Salford’s Sacred Trinity Chapel. “Having the chance to utilise the natural reverb from the church certainly provided more options in the mixing of the album,” *Guitarist and producer Dave Rowe’s stamp is all over the record, responsible for much of the album’s sci-fi emoting space rock textures, thanks to an echo unit he used prominently when taking the tracks back to his own Racketaudio studio where the majority of the album was recorded. There’s also Rowe’s greater experimentation with synthesizers, Winbolt-Lewis cracking “He spent time with different ones, taking them out for meals and the like.” *Whatever it was he did with them, the simple fact that new sounds have been introduced to Plank!’s sonic vocabulary has allowed them to create truly character-shifting pieces beyond anything they’ve achieved before and, in the cases of the likes of ‘La Luna’ and ‘Pig Sick,’ breathe new life into songs already released as earlier incarnations. Numbers like ‘King Rat’ and ‘Moolicks’ are the first time the group has stretched into eight and nine-minute territory, though with their open-ended European avant-rock leaning style you sensed it was always a possibility. With their cornerstones of Krautrock, electronica, prog and rock, even a hint of jazz, it's one of the most interesting albums to come out of Manchester for a good while. Plank! have always given the impression of a tight-knit unit, with no real start date on when they emerged – seemingly sometime around 2009 – but with a definite cohesiveness from the very off. The ideas that bounce around between them come from very different planes; bassist Ed Troup will mention black metal and things like Burzum as to what he’s been listening to of late. Winbolt-Lewis comments on his love of West African rhythms and the electronica of Los Angeles’ label Brainfeeder. Whilst Rowe praises Chick Corea and John Adams. Only a couple of these influences directly bleed through onto Animalism, but it shows the broad church under which Plank! now operate and the feat that it is to get all their different ideas aligned together. “Sometimes I wish the Plank! writing process was more like on 'The Doors' by Oliver Stone,” jokes Rowe, “where Robbie Krieger coyly starts playing ‘Light My Fire’ for the first time then the band play it and nail it instantly. We do get there in the end though.” Tracklisting: 1.Dying for pigs 2.King rat I, II, III 3.La Luna 4.Pig sick 5.Alpha dog 6.Self harm 7.Iguana farm 8.Moolicks

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