Animals and War - Self-Titled

Owain Paciuszko 02/06/2009

Rating: 5/5

With the distinctive staticy fuzz of a microphone sound there's something instantly wonky and homemade about the music of Animals + War, and as the childlike organ riff of Crayons begins, accompanied by whistling and what sounds like the bashing of pots and pans, it would be a cold soul that can't help but smile. The song clatters around like somebody trying to cover Hot Chip with things found in their shed.

Glasgow opens with a off-beat drum line and simply plucked acoustic guitar, accompanied by erratic synths, as if Aidan Smith had taken over Bloc Party for a weekend. Elsewhere there's the sound of scratching, not records scratching, but just general scratching, and it's little quirks and flourishes that really make up the sound of Animals + War over this 12 track demo. Out of nowhere, like the brilliant break-down at the end of Glasgow, comes something so inspired and magical or toe-tappingly melodic.

The musical project of Tom Marshallsay who wrote and recorded everything you hear, it's both deceptively amateur sounding and brilliantly arranged at the same time. The Bats has an air of The Beta Band in its lazily sung refrain with curious lyrics such as 'There's no-one around to hear the sounds of my stomach, it was black and white and grey and pixelated.' Whilst Dog Song features Marshallsay doing, as one might expect, dog impressions.

On Solid Grey Sky Marshallsay goes on to prove that in amongst the lo-fi quirks and charms he's an extremely gifted song-writer, with a touching song about a military march with thoughtful observations such as; 'A boy says to his mother "Aren't they all murderers?" / She does not relpy.' Meanwhile Strange Feeling has all the industrial clatter and dark imagination as Post-era Bjork, bursting with drums, guitars, synths and recorder! In A Play Park is a folkish romp akin to Akron/Family filtered through a Nintendo Gameboy.

Projections is somewhere between a New Age tribal chant and a Milkman's whistling tune, you can imagine that old milk-bottles following the delivery man advert with the bottles kitted out like the cast of Zulu, then the song throws in a kind of 80s synth riff on top of everything, calling to mind many of the pop artists who plundered world music for their own gain. It's almost bafflingly post-modern, or just bloody good fun and making me think too much at the same time!

Hay Tribe is stripped down nu-jazz Modest Mouse with Marshallsay chorusing his vocals into a raucous cacophony of drunk-rabble splutters, in between the Ceefax goes prog time-signature. Final track Dolphins is heralded by the sounds of fuzzy radio, a chiming cow-bell and a sputtering synth sound like helicopters flying overhead, it's an Apocalypse Now vision of Britain, stark and alien like a 1970s sci-fi made no more clear by the vocals floating in and out like the random shouts of tabloid vendors. As a scuzzy guitar riff comes in and Marshallsay begins howling 'Dolphins, dolphins! Everywhere!' it's like stepping into a rickety shed inside the mind of Douglas Adams and finding a mini-musical in progress.

This record is an absolute gem, each of the twelve tracks brings something new to the mix whilst all part of a whole. It flits between styles and genres yet has a ramshackle heart distinctly all of its own, filled with catchy riffs, crackpot invention, smart and wry lyrics and all recorded in a bedroom by one chap from Glasgow, this is a staggering achievement and one of the best demos I've yet received.