About two years ago I held a small gathering of old friends at my house. There was much wine, more beer and plenty of dancing. Amidst the mainly mathrock playlist I had conjured up earlier on that day, we listened to a few downtempo tracks, enabling us to put the pieces of our brains back together. During the party, one of my pals took me over to the laptop and played to me a fuzzy recording of what was his cousin’s new band. I enjoyed the track, threw some very appropriate shapes, and then continued to feed my intoxicated stupor. Unbeknownst to me, I was to rediscover the same band nearly two years down the line and instantly fall for them.
Prior to its release, I had immersed myself in the EP’s title track “Gooey”. The song starts with two simple arpeggios that are repeated in succession, played on a silky smooth sustained keyboard. Cutting right across the keys comes this gruff female vocal part, full of passion, hunger and soul. It is accompanied by these synthesised percussive pops and pulsations, which have the ability to change in pitch. In the chorus, the song suddenly obtains this rich texture. The injection of various new percussive instruments like a glockenspiel, a supple bass line breathed out by another synthesiser, and layer upon layer of backing vocals reinforce the weight of the chorus as it grasps the listener and elevates them. The title track is one of those stuck in your head for days tracks. It just will not budge.
Track two on the EP, called “Holiest”, has a similar laid back and immersive feel. The big difference is perhaps the change in vocals. Tei-Shi, a Brooklyn based vocalist, brings a fresh dimension to that rich, and somewhat overpowering vocal performance in “Gooey”. Her call-and-response approach to “Holiest” is chased almost childishly by what sounds like a glockenspiel that is frequently been pitch-blended and manipulated. Again, there are layers and layers of vocals that build up in whispers. Like all the tracks on this album, I thoroughly recommend sticking some big cans on and letting the huge vocal parts wash over you.
Upon its release, I was chuffed to see some reworks of the title track “Gooey”. Instead of containing several utterly different tracks, the five track EP only really boasts two songs – “Gooey” and “Holiest”. The other three tracks are reworks of the title track that include input from other artists. Dave Bayley, one fourth of Glass Animals, explains that this is down to the band’s love for collaborations.
“I love collaborating. I love it when someone outside the group can bring something to a track that we can’t ourselves. Be it a crazy idea, a skill or something stylistic.”
Although I was delighted to see them, I was also unsure of how having three marginally different takes of the same song on their EP would work to the band’s advantage. However, on listening to the reworks of “Gooey”, you can immediately understand why they were used.
In the second version of “Gooey”, the third track on the EP, a mixture between the monotone yet gorgeous flow of Chester Watson’s rapping and the over burdened and reverb-laden female vocals breaches perfection. There’s not much else to say about this track. The instrumentation is virtually the same as that of the original “Gooey”, except for the odd change. Like, for instance, the quick drop of all instruments at 0.30 to highlight Watson’s cough, and the odd glitch and loss of accents to emphasise certain beats and to stress the groove. The balance of the polished, delicate instrumentation and Watson’s precision and effortless stream of rap make for an absolute must hear of a track.
At the start, the Gilligan Moss remix of “Gooey” almost sounds like an utterly different song in conjunction to the second version of “Gooey”. Spoke to soon. The familiar vocal line “lemme show you everything I know” comes in. Yet, this remix is significantly more House – the tempo is upped and the textures are thinner. There is also less sustain on the instruments; everything is considerably sharper and more abrasive. But again, what really stand out are the vocals. In the chorus, Moss has manipulated phrases, creating about three or four rapidly repeating vocal fragments that become hypnotic. There is then a significant slowing down and spluttering release and reduction of parts, before a progressive build back up. The glitchy keyboards along with the bass drum just make you want to get up and move when the song starts to regain its pace.
By now, the listener is well attuned to “Gooey” and its characteristics. The third remake of the song, then, ties the EP up. With industrial slams of reverb heavy noise in the introduction, the track takes on a grimier trip-hop feel. This particular, more minimalistic remix of the song is carried out by Kingdom. He is a producer, again hailing from Brooklyn, who has obtained quite a name for himself in recent days, remixing works by acts like Chvrches and Mapei – watch this space.
“Gooey” has been described as a mixture of electronica and R&B to me. I struggle, however, to deny it a more encompassing description. If we are going to go down a genre naming adventure why not through them all out there. Not only does it seem to take aspects of electronica and R&B, but I hear snippets of IDM, downtempo, ambient, industrial, glitch, trip-hop, 2-step, dub, even jazz. To try and break Glass Animals down into a fusion of genres and potential influences seems unworthy of their ability to transcend the borders of these temporary categorisations. Instead, let us make up a super genre, that everyone will have to remember incorporates all of the above and that everyone will pin to the band. Let us classify “Gooey” as superelectro. That sounds cool.