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Food For Animals - Belly

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Artist: Food For Animals

Album: Belly

Label: Hoss

Review date: Jan. 28, 2008

Food For Animals' debut, Scavengers was one of the best, and probably one of the most overlooked discs of 2004. Compared to that year's next big things (Mahjongg, M.I.A., Arctic Monkeys and – one of the biggest things in music history to not actually happen – The Test Icicles, to name a few), FFA's tooth-rattling electronic innovations got shafted by the blogs. This isn't just unfortunate; it's ironic, given that in a time when the term "post-punk" was being driven down everyone's throat by the mainstream music press, FFA embodied a real-deal post-punk ethos. That is to say, much more than any early-'80s knockoff band that was appearing on the cover of SPIN Magazine, FFA were pursuing an artistically exploratory, genre-splicing sound, actualizing the creatively liberating promise of DIY music.

The failure of Scavengers to receive an avalanche of hype was probably, in part, due to embodying that radically creative post-punk spirit a little too well. Their style is punk in concept, but sonically it explores a previously undefined point of confluence between aggro-experimental electronics and hip-hop. That isn't the kind of thing that has an audience built in. One can imagine that indie dilettantes, poised to give dancehall a chance in '04 after hearing its footprint on M.I.A's Arular, weren't necessarily prepared for the garbled fuckery of DJ Ricky’s (Rabbit, a.k.a. Nik Rivetti) beats. Likewise, one can't see those open to the quirky, Britishly-reserved charm of Mike Skinner or the then-vogue "glitch-hop" necessarily digging the barreling freight-train vocal delivery of a looming hippie with a gigantic beard (i.e. Vulture Voltaire).

But the reasons why Scavengers was probably overlooked are the same ones that make FFA fantastic. They invoke the spirit of late-'70s Sheffield – not to mention early-'80s hardcore and Warp Records experimentalism – while sounding very little like any of it. However, with the release of Belly, they've finally started to get some much deserved press.

If Scavengers was driven by the tension of a basement show aesthetic being smashed full-force into hip-hop lyricism and drill'n'bass/breakcore experimentalism, Belly extends that tension in a few different directions. Vulture V.’s (real name: Andrew Field-Pickering) vocal delivery has mellowed, but not mollified, from a steamroller to a restrained roar. On the production end, the bouts of epileptic beats have become more severe, but have simultaneously incorporated jazz-samples and soul-snippets underpinning the hyperkinetic spasms of squelching, straining noise.

"Bulk Gummies" finds Rivetti’s seizure-inducing static locked in struggle against the rhyming of both Field-Pickering and the band’s new edition, Sterling "HY" Warren. This kind of production is explored further, and pushed to insane ends on "You Right," where amid a flurry of what sound like conga rushes, the production demonically downturns Field-Pickering’s vocals, warping them in a way that draws a conceptual line between Enosification and Chopped-and-Screwed production. The throbbing industrial Pan Sonic crush of "Belly Kids" underpins a political refrain referencing the conspicuous nationwide whitewashing of the Reagan presidency after the one-time star of Bedtime for Bonzo croaked. The track then runs the full gamut of what FFA do; the beat slows to a Jazz-tinged loop, the MCs tangle with it, the sample bends beyond recognition, then returns to a clanging industrial onslaught, only finding resolution with HY rapping unaccompanied, voice altered like he’s blasting off into outer space.

FFA is a band that gets better as it verges on the brink of absolute decay, and Belly perpetuates, extends and calcifies the excruciatingly precarious struggle between sounds and styles that drives them.

By Matthew A. Stern

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