There’s a helluva interesting scene coming out of London these days. Built around an organic arts, music and performance community we’ve had, for instance, the likes of the space-techno-jazzers The Comet Is Coming wowing tranced-out believers, and the more groove-based pan-African jazz offerings of Shabaka Hutchings and crew. Then there’s Snapped Ankles, a weird and wonderful concoction that embraces the modern and ancient, don mythological Norse hedge-like attire, and batter their instruments as if in a paganistic rave-up, where both booze and chai tea are flowing freely.
Log synths, bass guitar, analogue synths, and sticks on taut animal skin coalesce to form fearsome primal rhythms in their hands, a craft they’ve been developing in the live arena since 2011, the beginnings of which involved a forested installation infected with electronics. Performance art, yes. With an idea of making fully formed songs? No. Slowly but surely songs began to emerge from the proverbial primordial, and here we are with their debut album, on the same label as the aforementioned The Comet Is Coming. Like Danalogue the Conqueror from that band, they use dirty, noisy, but expressive analogue synths together with a tonne of percussion, some meaty bass riffs, and oscillators culled from synths to provide the foundation for their headlong musical rush amplified through some pedal action.
Nine tracks inform Come Play The Trees, and it’s an intense ride that begins with the title track. Wooden blocks, psych-analogue synths, and a tribalistic backbone entice you to come and play. If you’re adventurous and open-minded, just leave your inhibitions behind and join the party as Snapped Ankles invite you to step up, and suggest they may be able to solve your problems via subjects such as flat-pack furniture, art filmmakers, and dystopian futures, within their gloriously menacing soundscape. ‘Hanging With The Moon’ ups the ante with its propulsive and slightly bonkers techno-tribal groove, while ‘I Want My Minutes Back’ is all wired krautrock bass, bleeps, crazy electronics, mangled new wave vocals and a beautifully big and distorted one-note synth melody line. With the party now in full swing, they continue the motorik vibe with the equally pulsing and propulsive ‘Jonny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin’, a lyrical mash-up of the surreal neo-western flick Johnny Guitar and Jean-Luc Godard’s bourgeois piss-taking Weekend.
The band slow things down with the darker textures of ‘Let’s Revel’, where Mark E. Smith style vocals merge with Leftfield (‘Holiday’) dubby beats, before they wig out as a voice fights the possible bad trips: “It’s getting harder to be in control” giving way to “let’s revel“. And ‘Tuesday Makes Me Cry’ is perhaps a reference to that Tuesday comedown feeling that is a regular part of life for many weekend party heads, the beats pounding and relentless.
Slowly but surely, Snapped Ankles take it down a notch or two, starting with the Devo-esque voice, bleeps, mad electronics, drums and bass of ‘The Invisible Real That Hurts’, while ‘True Ecology’ wears its post-punk and new wave influences more readily via this bouncy closer that grows deliciously delirious towards the end.
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Snapped Ankles. Hirsute, playful and with a hint of danger, their intensely exuberant performance musical-art is just the tonic to shake off those 21st century blues.