Song-by-Song: Wildlife! – Anima

Brooklyn-based artist Samuel Riot aka Wildlife! has taken a wide-ranging approach to music since the days of touring his own soundsystem and studying audio engineering. After immersing himself in production, his sonic explorations have seen him create unorthodox riddims with Jamaica’s Terry Lynn, two LPs of experimental electronica as Young Palace, and hard-hitting club pieces as Wildlife!.

Since acquiring an MA in sound art, the Swiss artist has shown sound-installation work in Europe, Asia and the U.S. His debut effort for esteemed Brooklyn record label Mixpak last year saw him further cement his forward-facing approach, with 7 slices of caustic club damage that together formed the Patterns EP.

Now returning to Mixpak with Anima, Wildlife! departs from the club by broadening the emotional spectrum of his previous work. Placing ambient delicacy beside rugged textures, Anima’s aching soundscapes and complex compositions flicker light beneath the darkness, oscillating between moments of pure bliss and left field dancehall.

In celebration of the release, we asked Wildlife! to share with us the creative process and deeper meanings behind Anima. Stream in full and see what he had to say below.

Wildlife! Anima

From Patterns to Anima

Last year’s “Patterns” EP was my first official release with Mixpak Records. It was the first proper release under my WILDLIFE! moniker that I’d put on sabbatical for the almost 5 years I was getting an MFA. At art school I released two records of ambient and noise studies under the alias Young Palace. I’d thought at the time that the Young Palace work was too sizable a departure from the WILDLIFE! stuff but of course I can see now that both “Patterns” and my new EP with Mixpak, “Anima” are heavily informed by the themes of expansion that I explored then.

“Patterns,” wound up with a heavily industrial sound palette. Aesthetically it was still recognizable as rooted in club music—essentially aiming at a (hypothetical) dance floor. I’d wanted to stretch the boundaries of what it meant to qualify as club music on an instinctual level despite stripping away presumed rhythmic tropes. This tension, rather this conflict of expecting one thing and receiving another resulted in a dark, frankly unsettling listening experience that was abrasive and anxiety-inducing.

“Anima” in that sense serves as a salve. I hadn’t set out to create a complementary work and certainly not a book-end or response but after living in “Patterns” I felt a need to create a more intimate sonic world. Thematically the two works are similar which is to say that both explore liminal spaces of how taxonomically the music can seem like one thing while also qualifying as another; thereby creating another category altogether defined by a defiance of order. With “Anima,” I wanted to experiment not only with a broader emotional spectrum but the emotional responses to the evocative qualities of traditional melodic and harmonic systems—reassuring, familiar and truly pleasant territories—that maintain compositional focus on unpredictable rhythms and structures with complex textures. With “Anima,” I wanted to examine whether I could stretch and pierce boundaries without this repellent quality. I wanted everything to still sound really fucking pretty.

1. Anima

The title track functions as a gateway and sets the scene for the things to come, both in terms of sonic palette as well as the overall atmosphere. The dystopian themes presented on “Patterns” endure on this body of work, but the EP harbors a more wistful melancholy, exploring subtler gestures and scintillating textures. The track itself is centered around a simple melodic figure rolling over gracefully but against a constantly shifting backdrop of pads and textural elements.

2. Beaches

Over the past year, I got involved in pop production and my personal music has inevitably been influenced by this aspect of my work. I was curious to experiment with the song format on this record and so “Beaches” is built around a simple four bar LinnDrum loop, a rather straightforward four chord pattern, triads, and a canny little melody floating over the bass movement. Overall it’s a rather traditional, deliberately song-adjacent arrangement. With more ingredients of the pop-music industrial complex available to me, I can certainly see myself further down the line wanting to delve deeper into this format by possibly even working with vocalists sometime in the future. The prospect of digging into the fringes of contemporary pop music and experimenting with what can still be qualified as a canonical pop song is deeply alluring to me.

3. Ceremony

“Ceremony” is probably the closest I got to writing a club track for this record. But more than an actual club track, it carries the longing of this EP in that it serves more as what I’d describe as a faint memory of a rave tune. It starts off with just a vocal sample set against a lugubrious two chord movement, followed by another more grave triadic movement in the middle section. Then it closes the cycle by working its way back to the two chords movement from the beginning. All against a backdrop of chopped-up shifting drum patterns, reminiscent of mid-‘90s breaks without actually sampling them.

4. Dandelion

“Dandelion” sort of functions as a first little breather halfway into the record. I was trying to evoke a feel of stasis, without using actual repetition. The whole song consists of only a few layered and differently timed modal synth lines, hovering around a minor chord, and slowly developing a little melody moving around that one chord.

5. Everywhere

“Everywhere” could be considered as a study in beat minimalism. It’s basically a ridiculously reduced 70 bpm rap-beat, with nothing left over other than an isolated arpeggiated melody, some percussive shrapnel, and a few vocal fragments. I was interested in taking a well-tested format and stripping it all the way down right to the point just shy of complete disintegration.

6. Forgiven

“Forgiven is a slightly more fleshed out construct, built around a two-chord pattern and minor inverted arpeggios rolling over it. I tried to convey the feeling of sustained longing and I feel like this track somehow keeps promising resolution, teasing a gratification that ultimately never comes.

7. Great

While “Forgiven” is melancholic purgatory, “Great” is an aggravation in the form of a relentlessly forward moving slo-mo stomper. It’s based on a bass ostinato and modal synth figures and is an extended, pitched down take on a dance music build up, with the record’s last track basically functioning as the drop.

8. Hazy

“Hazy” ends the record on a decidedly hopeful note with a beautiful minor melody overlapping a simple triadic movement. It functions as a correspondence to “Beaches” which essentially gets the record going. “Hazy” concludes the journey and metaphorically delivers the listeners home, safely dropping them off contrasted by yet another exploration of avant-pop fringe land which may or may not be a suggestion of things to come.

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Anima is out now on Mixpak Records. You can buy it here

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