California’s Cervello Elletronico are doing something a little different on their debut for the venerable Hands label, which considering the difficult to pin down nature of the project’s catalogue is perhaps to be expected. While previous efforts have generally drawn from varying styles, from tightly sequenced electro to rhythmic noise, the deeply textured sound present on Anima Meccanica seems altogether different from anything we’ve heard from David Christian before. Working with a more muted and subtle set of noises, the album is simultaneously familiar and strange, as if some part of Cervello’s make-up has been exposed and allowed free reign for the first time.
Weirdly enough the first comparison that came to mind when listening to the LP was Coil’s Love’s Secret Domain, specifically the subconscious grooviness of acid inflected singles “Windowpane” and “The Snow” (and the latter’s techy “Answers Come in Dreams” remixes by Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto). I certainly wouldn’t speculate as to whether those influences are real or freely associated by my wandering mind, but there’s something in the way the steady kick and ascending synth patterns of “Vetebrae” approximate paranoia and unease. It’s probably a function of how damn creepy most of these songs are; where Cervello Elettronico has previously kept brighter elements up in front of the mix, the opaque texture, smashing glass and reverberating samples of “Impact” have a haunted factory vibe that feels entirely untouched by natural light. When the occasional ray does shine through, such as the airy sequences that wind their way through “Animalism”, they remain tempered by a substantial dose of misty ambience. As a record Anima Meccanica is foreboding, although the twisting pathways it allows us through the fog are sure and true.
I think there’s plenty to enjoy in the particular construction of these songs, but am also willing to admit that there’s an element of sameyness that appears in a few tracks. The mechanical clank and obsidian pads of “Last Words” and “Instant Trauma” work quite well, although they lose some power when applied to the sped up four on the floor of “Too Much Too Fast”. It’s a sensation that manifests again during the staticky crackles of “She’s Got Damage” and “Bad Ground”; nothing wrong with either song except that their proximity to one another dilutes them slightly. It’s always going to be a danger with songs that aren’t concerned with big hooks or repeated melodic elements, especially when the atmosphere is so uniform. At 13 songs, all aproximately between four and six minutes in length the record runs deep; perhaps the omission of one or two less descript numbers might have helped prevent the dip in energy and interest that manifests around the two thirds mark.
The lasting impression of Anima Meccanica seems rooted more in the album experience as a whole than in the particulars of each track. It’s a disquieting listen in some ways; Christian’s music has always had a liveliness that seems sublimated and deformed here. That it manages to couch that bleakness within ideas that have been lurking around the periphery of Cervello Elettronico’s style for some time is worth noting, not unlike how the familiar can seem unearthly and spooky when seen at an unfamiliar hour. As an LP Anima Meccanica segues and reinvents itself enough times to warrant a few attentive listens: there’s far more going on under the floorboards than a casual investigation will uncover, and if you’re brave enough to stay awhile you just might figure out what.