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Eloquent and energetic, Human Buoy fully explores his extensive catalogue on Animation Station

animation station human buoy ben mcdonald anvils debut album fields

A debut album is an artist’s first chance to stake their claim. To make an offering that is simply too good to refuse. An offering that is the distilled essence of what makes them unique, and also worthy of your time.

It’s a daunting task to be sure, and requires an artist to view their work, often for the first time, as an editor rather than a creator.

Animation Station finds Human Buoy, the Perth based psych-pop project headed by Ben McDonald (Dream Rimmy, Pond and Shiny Joe Ryan), at this important crossroad.

animation station human buoy ben mcdonald anvils debut album fields

A long-forecast and entirely sovereign release, Animation Station presents an unabridged foray into the innermost spectrums of Human Buoy.

McDonald has been teasing this release for the better part of a year with singles and individual track premiers. While understandable, the importance of being seen to be active and present on social media feeds is undeniable, but this does make Animation Station feel like a bit of a forgone conclusion.

The truth is that many of the best tracks here have already had their time in the sun, and it is arguable how much they benefit from being assembled into an LP. This sense of familiarity in some ways makes Animation Station feel more like an artistic purge than a focused debut.

That said, it’s a pretty god-damn impressive purge; blessed with far too many quality tracks to simply dismiss. Indeed, the best way to view Animation Station is as a slightly dishevelled house that was purpose built to provide a home to a bunch of disparate, but deserving individuals.

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Cartoon Carcrash opens the album perfectly. A jagged rhythmic verse all full of stabs effortlessly leads into an ear-worm chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. McDonald’s wry lyrics are also a joy to try and decode.

Passages like “you could wait if you dig fate, screamed a preacher running late. A waitress doubles weightless in their wake, just like a cartoon car crash” possess a wit that is highlighted knowingly in his off-kilter delivery.

It’s an odd song that takes pleasure in its own obtuseness, but importantly also invites the listener into the fray.

Anvils is another clear highlight. Nicholas Allbrook, hot on the heels of his excellent solo album, is unleashed on vocal duty and injects the moody track with infectious mania.

The production is top notch, setting the bar so high that the rest of the album almost pales in comparison, every chiming note echoing perfectly around the increasing swell of Allbrook’s multi-tracked performance. It’s worth the price of admission alone and identifies McDonald as a producer of great ability.

There are a number of other strong tracks on Animation Station. Oxygen, Fields and Mnemosyne all come to mind and travel their own crooked, diverse veins through psychedelic territory. However, the shorter tracks and experimental segues often prove frustrating and come off as half-baked.

It’s during these moments that listeners may find themselves wondering what Animation Station could have been, rather than what it is.

The answer to the above question may come across as pedantic and overly critical, but I would like to stress that it shouldn’t be discouraging. Housed within Animation Station is a mini album that would leave me excited, impressed and yearning for more. As it is, I’m suddenly left yearning to make a playlist. A damn awesome one, I might add.

 

Alastair Cairns is the singer/songwriter/troubadour of Sydney rock act Wells. He is definitely qualified for this position. He resides over here.

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July 20, 2017