Dunedin’s Fishrider Records has a long history of raising a pointy middle finger in the general direction of all things orthodox, and this debut solo release of Stef Animal (Golden Awesome) is certainly no exception.
Immaculately packaged in CD form, with the relevant equipment credits listed beside each track on the back cover, I first wondered if ‘Top Gear’ was a sampler release meant for an antique music shop – or at the very least, someone eminently more qualified (to review) than myself.
It turns out I was wrong, it’s a fully legit album with its own agenda. More than that, it’s a superbly executed concept album with strictly adhered to rules and parameters in place. Not content with being fascinated by old keyboards and vintage synth equipment, Stef Animal is an unashamed collector, and on ‘Top Gear’ she puts 15 of the decadent old beasts, or variations thereof, to very good use.
With one piece of equipment used for each track (rule one), and each composition being written and recorded in one sitting (rule two), it quickly becomes an exercise in not only wanton nostalga, but life-affirming wonderment.
Sounds produced by the pre-loved likes of a Casio SK-1, Casiotone MT-800, the Commodore Amiga 500 and the Atari 2600 do tend to have that effect. And while Yamahas and Rolands of various vintages will have you either wistfully reminiscing about the days of yore, or simply wondering what all the fuss is about, the album’s coup de grace arrives relatively early, on a track called Ducks, which features something called the Cass Creek Electronic Waterfowl Call. Yes, it’s an electronic duck caller no less.
Experimentation, ambition, talent, and life in general are indeed wonderful things. Sometimes it takes something as seemingly inauspicious as Stef Animal’s solo debut to remind you of that.