Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bushman - ANKA Album Review

"Bushman" is the first full length release from Grand Rapid Michigan's Ape Not Kill Ape and was recorded by Tommy at Goon Lagoon. It plays with the themes of death, repression, and the various depravities human beings face, with a simultaneously schizophrenic and bleak delivery. Atmosphere is key and this record sets a dark and baleful mood in which you can get lost in the many sonic textures presented on this album.

"Bushman" starts off on the right foot with the opening track: "In My Own Hell." A fuzzed out lead guitar is followed by rumbling drums and a shadowy bass line, creating the perfect foreboding atmosphere for Adis's lines, "When I'm dead/Burn my body/When I die/Throw a party". Similar ominous, dark, and manic themes persist. Not only lyrically, but instrumentally and sonically throughout the album. 

"Wilson," for example, tells the story of a bored, overworked, and sexually repressed cashier with sexual superpowers. The drums are steady with tight snare work, allowing the rest of the band to weave and wander while noise and feedback fades in and out in the background. The delivery of the spoken word is what really sells this track for me. Adis has a certain monotone way of saying most lines, only to abruptly scream a few words before resorting back to his direct delivery. The feedback swells perfectly with the screams, creating a manic energy to the track.

Carrying that manic energy, the 4th track, "Red Room", starts with an aggressive drive before dropping off into a tight grove while Adis drops some stream of conscious lyrics: "The lazy man/A spastic howl/Red room junk/Appear in town."  The lack of an apparent cohesive theme to the lyrics and shift between driving, aggressive instrumentation and tight grooving contributes to the schizophrenic feel of this song.

"Sun/Feel" is, in my opinion, the most desolate and ominous track on the album and is reminiscent of "F#A# (Infinity)". Clocking in at just under nine minutes, it's also the longest track on the album. Field recordings mark the beginning, while a violin-esque guitar plays over the ambient noise. Around the two minute mark, the rest of the band starts to come in creating a very bleak, yet oppressive, sonic texture. Abruptly ending at five minutes into the song, they come back in with a triumphant sound that makes me imagine lone cowboys riding into a far western outpost after weeks of living in the desert."He wants the sun/She wants to feel/Sun/Feel," Adis screams as the track devolves into roaring chaos.

The seventh track, "Risky", marks a shift in the album. While I feel the previous six tracks had their moments of energy and spastic attitude, I think the progression from the lumbering crawl of the beginning of "Risky" to the driving chaos at the end leads into the more manic and claustrophobic territory of the last five songs.

One of my favorite attributes of ANKA is their ability to to create a firm and dependable rhythm without making it boring. They know the correct combination of sinuous guitar, resounding drums, and bass that rides the fine line in-between. "Waltz" is a fine example of this, and has to be heard to understand just how well they pull it off.

The shortest song on the record, "Into Dust", is a dance-able minute and twenty five second banger, to be put simply. It's the most up-beat song on the album, but carries the same nihilistic lyrics you hear through out the record, "
You gave up/On yourself /I need help/Help ourselves". Proving that even when they're up, ANKA know's how to get down. "Warm Dream/Warm Death" is, like a few other songs on this album, a rerecording of a past release, and it really shows how far the band has come since their beginning. Rushed delivery is replaced by careful orchestration and makes it apparent that the members of ANKA have learned how to better work together and plan their attack. This track is also a fine example of just how good Goon Lagoon is. While the previous recording had a lofi approach, this recording articulately conveys the power of the instrumentation and better suits Adis's vocals.

"Chain Gang Depression" ends "Bushman" on the best note I think possible. Finger picked arpeggiation and smooth drumming transition to a noisy and panicked thunder and then ebb and flow in-between claustrophobic chaos and the typical rumbling thunder you should now expect from ANKA. The way Adis repeats "You think you're fucking special?" and escalates it from barely above a whisper to full blow screaming really allows the track to build to a climax before slowing easing to a gentle end.
Overall, Ape Not Kill Ape has out done themselves with this release. They have found their sound and mastered it without being formulaic or boring. They've come a long way since their beginnings and have really shown that they know how to work together to create the best and most coherent product possible. "Bushman" is artsy without being pretentious and convey specific messages without sounding preachy or heavy handed. Tommy from Goon Lagoon has outdone himself with the production on this record. I believe is fully captures the sound and aesthetic of ANKA. While normally I can find an issue with the levels or the way a certain instrument sounds, I think that Tommy did a perfect job, and I don't know if anyone else could hope to do better.

Facebook: Bandcamp: Interview With Adis: Edited by Haley Szczepanski

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