Review: Chris Strickland – Animal Expert

Chris Strickland - Animal ExpertStrickland recommends that I listen to Animal Expert “a little louder than usual”. He also notes that it’s “not really a headphone work”. I’m happy to comply: lounge speaker setup, volume at 35 (30 is my default volume). In these conditions, the record is my focal point whether I like it or not. High pitches are passed through my head like a syringe. I’m body-slammed by the sudden bursts of volume that prey on the moments of quiet. My ears outstretch in the direction of a tiny glimmer at the back of the frame (say, a pair of horns that have just emerged like dawn upon the horizon line) and the composition comes to seize me without hesitation: a gigantic clatter of wood and metal or public commotion whipped into a hurricane, capitalising on the impact of contrast to render a gigantic sound in an intimidating level of detail. The world shrinks to the size of a snow globe and then expands to flatten me underfoot, turning the sounds of tiny actions and objects – coins dropping upon a hard wooden table, polystyrene scraped with a hair comb – into enormous, pirouetting pieces of sonic architecture.

My lounge belongs to Strickland. 14 minutes into “Mammoth Husbandry”, I can almost see the electronic drones erecting themselves through the air like a series of tightrope wires at varying heights, while an elasticated noise projects television static across the entirety of my back wall. High beeps cling to my ceiling like leeches, on a periphery of my hearing range where I can almost mistake them for a different sensory experience entirely. A flash of light above me perhaps, or a citrus taste. Low frequencies thicken in my stomach and start to drag it out through my arse. Field recordings plummet me into hospital waiting rooms at peak hour, or empty bedrooms with the television left on. I feel naked and naïve as Animal Expert drags me between locations and hacks into my nervous system, rendering me as a silent figment of the listening experience rather than a recipient of it – a puppet sandwiched in the overlay of time and happening, rendered dumb and seasick by the way my world stretches, compacts, intensifies, recedes.