Friday, February 10, 2006

Animal On Wheels' Designs and Mistakes

Animals on Wheels' Designs and Mistakes is largely full of the latter, the largest mistake of which was to release the album in 1997, at the tail end of a glut of experimental electronic music. Whereas Ninja Tune had once been the forerunner of innovation in the genre, it was merely playing catch-up with Designs and Mistakes, what with Squarepusher et al already having dumped album after album in the two-three years preceeding. Simply put, Designs and Mistakes, at the time, just seemed like more of the same...boring.

Remove it from that context, however, and Designs and Mistakes isn't that bad. It's surely lifted from the blueprint of Squarepusher's Feed Me Weird Things, but perhaps done a little better. Instead of relying on fusion jazz, as Squarepusher does, often to detriment, Animals on Wheels has a broader sample. This is the most effective on "Loath" and "Eggshell," where the more erratic and frenetic beats of the genre are paired with the atonal jazz phrasings, hinting at the fact that, ahem, maybe free jazz would've made the most sensible (and rewarding) sample with this stuff.

That, then, surely makes Designs and Mistakes one of the first albums to prove one of the underlying assumptions of the Clutterer: music can not only be salvagable from its overlying context, but can also be improved. Now if only it weren't so generally boring as well....

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