Posts Tagged ‘Animal Collective’

NIM – 17th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As labels go, Iowa-based NIM is pretty new: established only last year during lockdown, it has to date put out just five releases, initially showcasing the work of those directly associated with the label or otherwise close to its contacts – which is so often how DIY labels begin. Artists unable to find an outlet, or otherwise feeling no affinity with any particular label or scene, decide to carve their own niche by setting up for themselves. And before long, they’re not only putting out their own stiff, and stuff by their mates, but have started to build a roster.

It’s all about ethos and ethics: labels who start up because there’s a gap in the market for the music they want to hear and therefore make it themselves are very different from labels who set up with the express purpose of being a label. But NIM clearly have some ambition, as the release of the debut from Health Plan earlier this month indicated: featuring members of Blacklisters, Dead Arms, USA Nails, and The Eurosuite, they’re something of an underground noise supergroup, and the release felt like quite a coup for the label. And then, there’s this…

Again, it’s a million miles from mainstream, but in terms of pulling together some highly respected – and incredibly exciting – cult acts, this is a flagship release, the kind of thing that is almost certain to put the label on the map, in the way that the first couple of Fierce Panda compilations did in the 90s, and thee On The Bone collections some 20-odd years later, showcasing acts as diverse as That Fucking Tank and The Twilight Sad alongside Wild Beasts, Pulled Apart by Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up. On the one hand a snapshot of the time, but on the other, an incredible document and a testament to ambition.

And so it is that Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast opens with a cover of Swans’ ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ by HUBBLE, which happens to be the ambient side project of Uniform guitarist Ben Greenberg, and also features a contribution from Rusty Santos, renowned for his work with Animal Collective, among others, and Obviate Parade, aka Paul McArthur, singer from Damn Teeth – not to mention a contribution from the mighty Health Plan.

Alright, so none of them may be household names, but they all carry some considerable cred in those more niche circles. And, alongside an array of obscuritants, they set out the NIM stall nicely, with an array of dark ambience and noisier efforts. This isn’t about establishing a ‘house’ style or otherwise making a specific statement: instead, this is as celebration of diversity, a divergent array of artists united by their lack of conformity.

HUBBLE’s cover is an almost psychedelic folk, semi-acoustic effort, while Rusty Santos wanders through quite mellow if deep trancebient territory, in contrast to the unapologetic noise abrasion of Health Plan’s ‘Food Grief’ lifted from their eponymous debut. If your tastes are narrow, avoid this: this is one for the eclectivists, and the first three tracks alone are enough to shred most brains.

Gareth JS Thomas’ ‘How You Feel’ stands out as a masterclass in thunderous, percussion-driven abrasive noise, and provides a particularly stark contrast to Obviate Parade’s noodlesome lo-fi neoclassical jazz-tinged meanderings and the frenetic post-punk squall of ###’s contribution, which lumbers hard with a Shellac-style riff and changes direction multiple times over the course of its three-and-a-half minutes.

Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast is challenging, both sonically and in its diversity: the chances are that few will like everything, and many won’t like anything at all. But those who like some will likely find more to like, because it’s a smorgasbord of weird and wonderful, and is a shining example of artistic collectivism, and Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast shows how NIM is a hub for a disparate array of artists who are doing very different things, but respect and celebrate that diversity.


Christopher Nosnibor

Eric Copeland, operating outside of his main musical outlet of Black Dice, continues his understates solo career with the discreet release of Dumb it Down. It’s almost as if he’s on a campaign of anti-promotion, and would prefer his work to spread by word of mouth and osmosis. There’s a perverse logic in that, which corresponds with his unusual career trajectory: bursting onto the scene as an act with decidedly hardcore leanings, Black Dice released a slew of singles and Eps between 1998 and 2000 that charted their evolution towards abrasive experimental noise, before an unexpected swerve saw their debut album in 2002 present expansive pieces of an infinitely more chilled-out nature.

Having subsequently influenced – and crossed over with – Animal Collective who, they put in contact with the Fat Cat Records label back in 2003, Black Dice may have been somewhat eclipsed and Copeland’s solo work existing some way below the radar.

Dumb it Down isn’t exactly a hugely commercial proposition, to be fair: the title track is the first on the album and while it got a sort of bouncy feel to it, with hints of early Wire, Suicide, Stooges, and Cabaret Voltaire tossed together and blended with a psychedelic twist, most of it’s buried in so much murk: it’s fuzzy, bassy, and sounds like a demo recorded on a condenser mic. But then, it’s cool, because it also sounds like a lot of the stuff on the Pebbles compilation series. So yes, it sounds more like a lost gem than a contemporary work, and this is true of the album as a whole.

Across the album’s ten tracks, all of which are so swampy that they sound as if they’ve been recoded from underwater, or from the next room. There are some viable sabs of electro-funk, with hints of Taking Heads and dashes of 80s robotix all churned in together, but it seems to have been recorded and mixed to deliberately undermine any commercial potential. In the past, commenting on the likes of The fall, Pavement, and Silver Jews among others, I’ve suggested that lo-fi production or not, you can’t keep a good song down, but Copeland has seemingly gone out of his way to absolutely fucking bury an entire album’s worth f good song – give or take.

There are strains of Silver Apples’ analogue tripouts which emerge from the dark depths, ‘Motorcycles’ sounds like Suicide playing ‘Louie Louie’ in a basement bar three blocks away. And far from dumbing things down as the title suggests, this album presents a real challenge to the listener, namely ‘do you have the patience?’ Well, do you? Such patience is rewarded, however much frustration the audio levels may cause, because the no-fi primitivism is, ultimately, integral to the experience of the album.

The MP3 age has made us snobbish about fidelity – and the trend for 180gm vinyl pressings likewise. And some may say that there’s no excuse for rough, sloppy recordings anymore, but anyone who recalls or has a taste for lo-fi, be it 60s psych, late 70s / early 80s bedroom 4-tracking will vouch for the way in which this kind of stuff can touch the listener in ways which resonate beyond the articulable. Ultimately, Dumb It Down is lowkey, lo-fi and low-impact, and I like it.