Owen Ashworth, formally known as Casiotone For The Painfully Alone but now known as Advance Base, tells short stories. They’ve gotten a little longer since the Casiotone days, but they’re still about ordinary people living ordinary lives, in this case lives that frequently involve dogs.
Over the beatless drone of Your Dog, he tells the story of a guy that misses his ex’s dog Walter a lot more than his ex, and the waltz-style instrumental Walt’s Fantasy is a cute throwback to this. Elsewhere, Answering Machine is about a girl who leaves voicemails for her dog while at work (“and you can tell / that he really listens to your calls / because when you get home you will find / his toys laid by the machine”). The theme of reminiscence is also strong, many of these stories either being from or invoking the past, and Ashworth is not averse to a bit of sentimentality in places.
The production is minimal, mostly electric piano with some light embellishments, but it frames the lyrics well. Dolores & Kimberly features a lo-fi drum loop, double bass and a four note melodic motif that cycles through the track like a time counter on home-recorded VHS memories. Rabbits uses organ chords for a bigger sound along with percussion that could have been lifted from a Moby album, such is its tinny, stilted nature.
Animal Companionship’s tracks are low-key, and even the relatively upbeat You & Me & The Moon only shows this with a muffled pulse. It makes for a poignant, gentle album in the singer/songwriter tradition, with production that’s more elaborate than that of his former alias but not much more. The stories are genuinely endearing, the production creates an intimate feel, and with this album Ashworth has consolidated his reputation as a bedroom pop veteran.