“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for the unusual sounds of the Animal Factory…if you dare…” could be the pitch to draw you into the tent for this record.
The Hortus Conclusus Records netlabel offers us a mini-album from Opening Needle Progress about, well, that’s open to interpretation. For me I pick up a vibe that it’s commenting on some of the darker aspects of we human animals, but it could also simply be a step in the “heterodox morphogenesis” (as the somewhat verbose album descriptor offers) of ONP main man Dylan Middleton of Blackwood in Wales. Whatever it’s about, musically it is interesting slice of experimental lo-fi.
The short opener “Intro To Our Animal Factory” sounds like a carnival sideshow barker from hell welcoming (warning?) you about what you are soon to encounter. The next couple tracks offer a mix of strummed acoustic guitar, whiny/affected falsetto, and occasional wordless voices, usually all sounding off in the distance.
A bit of surprise is up next on the fourth track “Ylem.” This is no doubt the catchiest track on this album. It’s all backwards and almost pastorally psychedelic; it sounds like a Julian Cope song trying to emerge. And then, as if out to prove you can’t have too much of a good thing, track five is the same song but with some more aggressive production touches, making it a bit more unsettled.
Even though it’s the same basic song, track five does have the best title on the album: “The Wigan Absinthe Scene.” Arguably that could also be the song title of the year. Love it.
Next up is the title track “Animal Factory.” It’s a mix of three basic elements: indecipherable group talking (like you’re floating above a large cocktail party hearing many voices but no individual words), noodling of distorted guitar, and snippets of original newscasts about the 1978 Jonestown, Guyana, “mass suicide” (or, perhaps more accurately, mass murder). It is disturbing and heavy, to say the least. The three elements of this song constantly overlap, each grabbing the bulk of your attention at different times.
The main album theme wraps up with a short track of barely there electronic noises, which is most welcome after that dense song preceding it. The main theme wraps with “Outro To Our Animal Factory” with its plucked guitar and more strangled falsetto, perhaps trying to explain what we’ve just been through, but it will take work to decipher it all.
Tacked on to the end is a (bonus?) track called “We Are All Dreams Of Me.” Listening to it, I feel like I’m eavesdropping on Bradford Cox (Atlas Sound, Deerhunter) in a room screwing around with his vocals and playing an acoustic guitar trying to come up with song ideas. It definitively fits the overall feel of the rest of the music, but also stands apart.
I hope you are tempted to experience the Animal Factory, but it may change you by the time you exit.
Opening Needle Progress “The Wigan Absinthe Scene”: