March 1st, 2009

Textura

Review of Animal Hospital’s Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues
Ron Schepper, Textura Editor

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Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues, the second full-length album by Boston-based musician and producer Kevin Micka (aka Animal Hospital ), presents a satisfying, forty-three-minute set of guitar-based instrumentals and electro-acoustic explorations. Not having heard his 2004 self-titled release, I can only imagine how it compares to the new material but I’m willing to bet Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues represents a significant advance (something I’m sure we’ll also hear when Micka’s Barge recording, Memory, is released). The range of sounds he coaxes from the guitar shows he’s clearly a resourceful player, and one who, to his credit, eschews histrionics for a subtler approach. He proves equally capable of folding repeating patterns into hypnotic lattice-works (“Good or Plenty”) as he does sculpting meditations both vaporous (“What If They Are Friendly”) and shuddering (“Labor Day”), and he’s also got a nice way of using well-timed stabs to kick the material into a higher gear when necessary; hear, for example, how the otherwise polite funk workout “Barnyard Creeps” springs to life the second Micka’s guitar roar enters. Contrasts abound: a seeming septet of electric guitarists collectively threads melodic patterns into a ruminative whole during “Novel Moments” while steely tones and washes stretch across the background; waves of guitars swarm and cascade throughout “11 18 07″ while a plodding rhythm keeps funereal time; and the jubilant and light-footed “March and June” drapes wordless vocals by Katharine Fisk Shields and Micka over a lightly swinging, Afro-tinged rhythm base, with acoustic guitar and a celeste-like melody adding further colour. Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues doesn’t radically advance the guitar-based soundscaping genre but there’s still much to admire about Micka’s execution of his material and his conceptual approach (love the album cover too).

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