Dog Almond “Drifting Animals” LP

a2445370845_10Christophe Calpini and Franco Casagrande are two busy, genre-defying, musical pedigrees who play around with styles as they play around with projects. With CVs as long as their arms, their musical journeys are both peppered with collaborations that read like the Swiss Who’s Who of the electro-jazz, indie-folk, reggae and hip hop scenes. Calpini – a veteran drummer, knob twiddler, arranger and producer, who made his mark back in the 90s with Silent Majority, then continued via Eric Truffaz, Alain Bashung, and set up cult underground projects in the shape of Mobile in Motion and Stade. Casagrande – best known as the guitarist in the Swiss reggae band The Moonraisers, errant collaborator with outfits as varied from Chapter to Awadi, and master of a very capable vocal talent.

Ready to bite

‘Drifting Animals’ is the third Dog Almond LP recently issued on their own label, altogether a different affair from their quirky, groovy-edged “In Dog We Trust” of 2010 where the pooches were cute, cuddly and playful. Here the dogs are in a more sombre mood and are ready to bite. As the album cover suggests, intricate beauty sits aside danger, decay and darkness. The sound is fuller, larger, played live and loud. Distorted guitars, reverberating drums, vocoder voices add a depth and perspective which is at times melancholy, other times angry, always emotionally and musically audacious.

Epic, moody, multi-textured, swirling pop songs

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Setting the tone perfectly is the opening track, “Dull Knife”, a richly menacing and dubby instrumental soundtrack, (imagine a would-be Tarantino reggae Western), greatly coloured by the baritone sax of Ganesh Geymeier. There’s an ambiant, trip-hoppy vibe that then takes over, big beats played sparse and wide giving room to highlight Casagrande’s vocal abilty that sits well in both a soft pop frame as that of fierce rocker. For some reason comparisons with Depeche Mode are springing to mind – epic, moody, multi-textured, swirling pop songs that could seduce a daytime radio listener as much as the stadium rock fan. “If it’s easy” is a typical example of a darkly captivating, tortured love song that sucks you in and spews you out thanks to less-is-more pacing, crafty sinister reverbs and an emotionally-sensitive vocal. My money sits with the closing track, “Inventing a moment”: deceptive languid melancholia set on fire by wonderful string arrangements and the guest-featured sax that swirls us into a heady jazz-tinged finale.

Dog Almond forthcoming gigs:

7/03/14: Chat Noir-Carouge (Ge)

28/03/14: Le Bout Du Monde – Vevey (Vd)

3/05/14: Hacienda-Sierre (Vs)

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