ANIMAL HOSPITAL – “MEMORY” (BARGE, 2009)

I  know that this is waaay after the fact, but I am still hoping that for some of you Animal Hospital’s Memory is a new experience. I initially read about Kevin Micka in an awesome Forest Gospel review (if you want an excellent song by song break down, seriously, read this article), and then after picking up his other amazing 2009 release Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues on Mutable Sound and being really impressed by it, Kevin Micka kind of floated away from my consciousness. It wasn’t until I realized that I had special ordered this album at a local record store a half year ago that I began my another Animal Hospital obsession. Memory is released by Barge recordings, that as a rule, only puts out killer recordings, as such their releases are insanely selective. Their last release previous to Memory was 2008’s drone masterpiece Baby, It’s Cold Inside by the Fun Years. This is their latest.

Animal Hospital is known for looping guitar drones that weave around each other like two snakes while a bees nest of electronic and vocal manipulation buzz beneath the surface. On Memory Kevin Micka takes a similar approach, the opener “Good Times” begins with a delicate music box before giving way to a mournful guitar line reminiscent of SLC guitar hero Chaz Prymek’s nomadic wanderings. “His Belly Burst”, which I argue is the stylistic palette for the entire album, starts with a Warren Ellis like bowed Cello as Kevin Micka lays down a thick layer of electronic resonance. About half way through the 17 min. track Micka’s guitar work gets intense. A repeated plucked cello, later joined by a repeated electric guitar chord that reminds me of Birchville Cat Motel’s viscous breakdown of a single Iron Maiden riff in his epic “Drawn through Chanting Chords”. This is about as heavy and intense as acoustic music can get. Although not as terrifying as Kingdom Shore.

After 3 more heavy hitters, including the albums only track with vocals “And Ever” we are treated to a delicious 4 minute segue. “A Safe Place” starts with a host of electronic percussion before totally surrendering to an incredibly beautiful guitar line and some looped wordless vocals. These are moments that send chills up my spine. The closer title track “Memory” is a rumination on everything experienced this far. Bottomless low-end frequencies run deep below the track while an acoustic guitar and looped vocal lines float down the slip stream. Micka useful percussion in this track consist of simply hand claps and the hollow body of an acoustic guitar. Beautiful stuff here. The album closes with a looped cello line that would make Arvo Part proud.

So, I know I didn’t really give this album justice. Trying to describe something like this without telling how it made you feel is pointless. You can disregard all of my attempts to try and capture what this album sounds like and just know that listening to this album is the equivalent of watching an old super 8 wedding footage of long dead family members. Or finding a piece of paper in the street with your name on it. By far one of the most emotionally relevant pieces I have heard all year.

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