Have a go at deconstructing Plank!’s chosen name. With a bit of background information about the experimental ends of popular music, it’s tricky not to be led towards the currently super-hip – in stark contrast to the deepest recesses of obscurity in which this stuff tended to languish during the scene’s early to mid-’70s creative peak – fountain of psychedelically frazzled inspiration that’s burdened with the notably un-PC tag of krautrock.
Perhaps “Plank” is a tribute to Conny Plank, the super-producer whose name graces the sleeve of many a fine product from the vintage era of experimental German music. It could also well be that the “!” is a sly nod towards that exclamation mark at the end of Neu!. Although the band’s early gigs suggested an urgent calling to cruise down the Autobahn, and the likes of ‘La Luna’ here could almost pass for side 1 of Neu! 75 after several espressos, the instrumental Manchester trio’s debut steers clear of overtly generic homages to icy “motorik” grooves.
A more fitting guide to understanding the band’s guiding ideas lurks inside the album title instead. Animalism is at its most effective when Plank! resist the urge to overthink things and follow their primal instincts in a way our furry friends would understand and appreciate. The album’s best parts – the majestic opener ‘Dying for Pigs’, the handclap-propelled, restlessly evolving ‘King Rat’, the uncharacteristically laidback ‘Alpha Dog’, and especially the hypnotic blend of brilliantly brutal riffs and sax-enriched inner space explorations of 10-minute closer ‘Moolicks’ – pack a potent punch that provides an uncommonly satisfying blend of raw power and advanced musical prowess.
That’s not to say that Animalism is dumb or simplistic. These spiralling dialogues for appealingly wheezing synths and ricocheting guitar lines, laid on a foundation of gently fuzzed-out bass and versatile drumming (recorded in a Salford chapel for extra echo power), pack enough alluring detail, compositional nuances and intricate interplay to allow the listener to uncover fresh bits long after the thrill of new is over. Even though Plank! are audibly inspired by a wealth of stuff that’s not exactly wanting for brain-power, that in music tends to express itself via complex noodling, the best bits are fired up by the kind of elemental energy that elevates proceedings well above yet another clinically chin-stroking post-post rock outing. From Can to Tortoise to Battles and beyond, there are many audible influences at work on Animalism. Apart from the odd needless detour to bloodless math rock territory, Plank! manage to twist these oft-troubled templates into compellingly unique shapes.