Animal Magick

Andrew Liles

Animal Magick

Year: 2016
Label: Tourette (Tourette 044)
Format: CD

Leishmaniasis
Pink Toed Ungulates
Pongo's Cave
The Order of Nine Angels
Donkey Jacket
Murderous Mary
(Rotund! Manatee!) Trichechus
The Flea Circus Ringmaster
Pelz, Horn, Blut
Cat Wormer
Pug Washed
Pronghorned
Infectious Coryza
Camel Spit in thy Eye
Animal Magick
Hyraxes

A kangaroo consulting the Kabbalah? The monkey as Magus? An occult ocelot? All presided over by the reincarnated grand illuminatus that is and was Johnny Morris? It can only be ANIMAL MAGICK.

66 minutes and 6 seconds of bestial, idiosyncratic, oddball eccentricity. CD housed in a 6 panel digipack.

Reviews:

AFRICAN PAPER
Nach den rund zwanzig Jahren, die Andrew Liles nun die Welt mit musikalischen und visuellen Monstrositäten bereichert, kann man durchaus ein Resümee zu der Richtung wagen, die sein bisheriges Werk genommen hat. Liles ist über die Jahre bunter, schriller und extrovertierter geworden, der Spaß an immer wieder neuen Facetten des Bizarren ist offensichtlicher, und nichts ist ihm heute fremder als das bisweilen trockene und vornehme Image der allgemein als experimentell bezeichneten Musik.

Besonders seit der Monster-Reihe, bei der er Elemente des Surrealen mit Comic Art zu einem ganz eigenen audiovisuellen Kosmos zusammenführt, ist Liles regelrecht aufgeblüht. In einem kleinen Interview, das er selbst mit Freund und Kollege David Tibet führte, sagte dieser, sein größtes Ziel sei die totale Zerstörung des Andrew Liles – ein schwieriges Unterfangen gewiss, erscheint dieser doch längst wie eine Hydra, die ständig neue seltsame Häupter sprießen lässt.

Wenn das Wort auch nicht ausdrücklich fällt, steht „Animal Magick” dieser Reihe zumindest nah, und schon die Covergestaltung, die viktorianische Tierbuchillustrationen, pseudookkulten Mumbojumbo und Liles’sche Eigenkreationen zusammenführt, lässt daran keinen Zweifel. Dem entspricht dann auch die Musik, bei der Hexenmeister Liles – auf der Basis alter Trickfilmsamples, gekonnt kollagierter Klassik-, Cabaret- und Tangosamples und natürlich exquisitem Gegrunze, Gebelle und Gequake aller Art – demonstriert, dass ihm keine Idee zu flach zum Vergolden ist:
Skurrile Walzer spielen auf zum Totentanz der knarrenden Affenskelette, flankiert, natürlich, vom hämischen Kichern unserer nächsten Verwandten, über die man nicht zu laut lachen sollte, denn sie sind in allen möglichen und unmöglichen magischen Praktiken geschult. Auf die Elefantiasis einer behäbigen Big Band, an der auch Baby Dee ihren Spaß hätte, folgt ein Köter, der (nicht ganz ohne Hilfe von Liles’ elektroakustischer Trickkiste) „Freude, schöner Götterfunken” gauzt, und wenn eine Schweinerotte einem Bariton die Schau stiehlt, denkt mancher vielleicht an Thomas Bernhards unseligen Theatermacher, dem die Schweine eines neben dem Dorftheater gelegenen Stalles sein geliebtes Stück “Das Rad der Geschichte” zergrunzt haben.
“All pigs must die!” würden da manch wild gewordene Carnivoren brüllen, aber keine Chance! Diese Schweine sind die Macht, und im Laufe der CD wird immer deutlicher, dass das hier vorgeführte Bestiarium längst kein Zoo mehr ist, sondern die Schaltzentrale der Welt, und niemand kann behaupten, dass Liles uns mit dieser Feier eines animalisch-apokalyptischen Furors nicht gewarnt hätte. (U.S.)

HEATHEN HARVEST
Andrew Liles’s “Animal Magick” Is Very, Very Silly, but Absolutely Magickal.

That’s the main thing that really stands about this release: it’s extremely silly. In this current climate of artists making ‘serious art’ (especially the kinds of frowny-faced artists normally associated with the post-industrial underground), to hear something that is maybe closer to some novelty animal-noise record made in the fifties than anything being made in 2017 felt not only incredibly anachronistic, but quite refreshing. Where his peers are making ‘blackened ritual ambient’, ‘dark synthwave’, or ‘dungeon ambient’, Andrew Liles is making a record that sounds like ‘broken circus’, ‘cartoon zoo jazz’, or ‘short-story menagerie marching music’. And, in all seriousness, I totally dug it.

The only other album I can think of that really shares the same cultural space is the Secret Chiefs 3’s first album, First Grand Constitution and Bylaws, with its seemingly random collection of sketches, schnippets, brief flirtations, and sound-effects, collectively smattered between longer pieces based around simple keys and percussion. But where that Secret Chiefs 3 album almost felt like a bunch of unfinished drafts hastily (if excitedly) cobbled together and released (and bears little resemblance to any subsequent Secret Chiefs 3 release), Animal Magick feels utterly deliberate and complete, which honestly makes it all the stranger. The whole album flows together beautifully: with each short piece being made of strange isolated ideas smashed together, it’s often impossible to know where one track has ended and the next begun. To give you an idea, the second track alone (‘Pink Toed Ungulates’) includes: no-holds-barred goose honks; a one-man-band calliope-style section, overlaid with guttural bestial grunting; a section of minimal keyboard meets bird calls; a few bursts of snarling growls, forward and/or backwards; completely asynchronous hand drums; various unrelated peeps and poops; a frenzied tribal section; weird moments of Indian or African stringed drone instruments; maybe two seconds of flute; rising and falling synth noises; and one small moment of classic mountain-peak yodeling.

And every piece on here is like that—absolutely impossible to predict, yet all completely related to each other. Liles has invented a new genre and stuck to it assiduously. The fifth piece, for instance (‘Donkey Jacket’), focuses on an uncomfortable duet between old-school Latin jazz loops and donkey noises, broken occasionally by a motley collection of trickling sounds, creaky hinges, sharp explosions, and a single bell. ‘(Rotund! Manatee!) Trichechus’ spends its time blending beautiful deep-water synth drones with faintly splashing waves and tiny squeaks before exploding in a blossom of frantic marimbas, ending with manic sped-up cabaret jazz samples. Each piece displays its weirdness on its sleeve, unabashed, unashamed, unaware even that there’s a ‘normal’ that one is meant to adhere to. Every piece belongs on this album (and this album alone), completely linked by a penchant for nostalgia-core (samples of old jazz, showtunes, vaudeville, samba, beguine, marching music, squeezebox, calliope, etc.), brief ambient synth sounds, and animal noises—lots of animal noises. If you loaded an animal sound-effects CD, a ‘Music Your Grandparents Loved’ CD, and a ‘Strange Music from Exotic Locations’ CD into some kind of specialised CD player that only played five or six seconds of something at a time, and then pressed ‘shuffle’, you might very well end up with something like this release.

The only human words are eleven tracks in, on the piece ‘Pug Washed’:

‘I want you
That’s all I do
Who are you?
Your magic is strange and new‘

It’s spoken slightly too loudly with a computer-generated text-to-speech program, coming across uncanny-valley cold and startlingly inhuman (strange that, on an album completely populated by non-human sounds, it’s the human voice that ends up feeling the most alien). And the only piece on the album that breaks the ‘short pieces made of animal noises and old jazz’ template is the title track, which is nothing but long, soothing, richly timbral, almost-meditational waves of synth. It’s an epic fifteen minutes of ethereal drone which ends, abruptly, in a hyper-wacky dog-bark rendition of fucking ‘Ode to Joy’, of all things.

It’s wacky. It’s bewildering. It’s fucking weird. It’s really not like anything else I’ve heard, which already gives it a huge number of bonus points, and the fact that it was made quite recently doubles those points (with extra extra bonus points for having the entire release total to precisely sixty-six minutes and six seconds). Here is music that doesn’t give a shit what kind of music you normally listen to, or what your level is on the ‘kvlt’ hierarchy, or how ‘tr00’ you might think you are. Here is music that doesn’t give two hoots (pun intended) what other people are doing, or why. This is music completely perpendicular to all trends and norms and genres: even the umbrella label ‘experimental’ doesn’t really apply here, because these pieces feel too deliberate to merely be ‘experiments’. Andrew Liles (who has, let’s not forget, worked with Nurse with Wound, the Hafler Trio, Current 93, Tony Wakeford, Vidna Obmana, and fucking Faust, to name only a few of his associates) has something in mind, and he does it without fear or hesitation.

Maybe it’s all there in the title: he’s not doing something so meaningless as just making more music. He’s casting magick. And I, for one, am under its maddening, mirth-inducing, misanthropic, mutagenic spell.

Mat Blackwell