If there’s one thing you can say about the bands on the Akoustik Anarkhy label it’s that they’re never boring – as exemplified by Plank, a trio from Manchester who eschew mere song structures in favour of the unconventional. Animalism is their debut album, made up of a mixture of re-recorded favourites from their early releases and new tracks.
Over the course of eight tracks they carefully construct their compositions, though nothing feels overly thought out; despite the frenetic nature of their music it’s pleasingly spacious. There’s always something that’s designed to hold attention, whether it’s sludgy bass, bubbling keyboards or looping guitar riffs. And once they’ve got your ears hooked they’re also pretty good at sustaining the momentum. When they’re at their very best they’re thrilling and explosive. Album close Moolicks is just that. Sailing very close to the 10-minute mark, it goes through several gears and never wastes a precious second.
Of all the many components, it’s the rhythm section that turns out to be the key ingredient. For all the impressive guitar noodling and starry-eyed keyboards that dominate, Ed Troup and Johnny Winbolt-Lewis are the duo who provide the unshakably solid backbone. On the krautrock-influenced La Luna they drive the track forward with terrific intensity and provide the perfect platform for Dave Rowe to perform his wizardry.
Stylisticly, Plank! borrow tricks from a variety of different genres. As well as the aforementioned krautrock, the end of Moolicks (jazzy saxophone included) is a firm nod towards prog whilst Iguana Farm, the only moment on the record when the frenetic playing is toned down for a bit of eerie ambience, sounds like a lost piece of music from some 1970s dystopian sci-fi film. Self Harm’s complexity is also very reminiscent of some of Battles‘ best work. The only criticism, albeit quite a big one, is that once you’ve got through the first few songs it feels like you’ve nearly heard it all. The lack of dynamics makes the listening experience a bit tiring towards the end. What’s needed is a couple of other downtempo moments to provide a bit of balance.
For all the repetition, Animalism is still a very intriguing and exciting debut. It doesn’t outstay its welcome and it manages to conjure up all kinds of terrifying images in the listener’s head, which is no mean feat for an instrumental band. However, despite the energy and controlled chaos, this seems like a launch pad for them. If they continue to experiment with layers and dynamics then they’ve every chance of becoming a trio to be reckoned with.