Danimal Planet strikes again with a new EP
Just when you think you’ve said all you need to about Danimal Pinson and his musical cohorts, they go off and create some new bit of beautiful and intriguing art. The new EP, titled Penny in the Well, is slated for release on April 11 at the all-new Camp House on MLK.
The show, organized with the assistance of Fly Free Fest founder Corey Petree, is going to be a spectacular event featuring not only Danimal Planet, but Smooth Dialects and a bevy of buskers, painters, dancers and a festival-quality light show.
Last year I had the pleasure of writing about D.P.’s Allegory of the Cave. At the time, I was rightfully blown away by, well, everything about it. That led to some hesitation when it came time now to review Penny in the Well. How could it live up to the ridiculously high bar set by the earlier work? If it did, how much could I say without just rehashing what had already been written?
The answers are: Because Pinson did it (and insists on raising his own bar), yes, and it’s an entirely different work. Allegory of the Cave was genius, so is Penny in the Well and there isn’t a single re-treaded note to be found. This EP isn’t standing on the shoulders of earlier works, nor is Pinson “playing it safe” by doing what he’s already done.
I don’t want to let that point go too easily. Anyone even vaguely familiar with my writing knows that Tom Waits is one of my most favorite (if not THE favorite) artists of any era, and while it might seem Waits has a penchant for reinventing himself every other album or so, I don’t think that’s quite right. He isn’t really reinventing himself so much as continuing a never-ending process of musical exploration. The result is that, were it not for the unmistakable voice, you could listen to three different Waits albums, love them all, and never know they were the product of the same man. That is genius. With the release of Penny in the Well, Pinson and company are demonstrating precisely that kind of power and it is a very rare gift.
Penny in the Well features six tracks, each replete with the sort of gently complex arrangements one has come to expect from Pinson. Pinson, Maria Jordania-Sable, Josh Sable and Adam Brown are the main players behind Danimal Planet (and more than a bit of Smooth Dialects) but the collection of tunes features a few special guests as well, each contributing in some absolutely essential way to the cohesiveness of the work.
Jessica Nunn’s viola, Aaron Avery’s Shaggy-esque scat/beatbox and Andrew Hagen’s saxophone may seem like small touches, but they are the flourishes that bring this already magnificent set of tunes that much closer to perfection.
If it seems like I’ve spent the whole column telling you how good it is without discussing what it actually sounds like, there’s a reason: It’s absolutely genre-defying. There’s no comparison I could make that would do it justice. The music and lyrics are thoughtful and intelligent. Sable’s voice is, as always, sinfully angelic, while Pinson himself evinces overtones of Neil Young in the best possible way.
Technically, I suppose, the music is largely electronic—but that’s like labeling something jazz when jazz is comprised of so many wildly varying sub-genres that the title does little more than tell you where to look for it in a record shop.
What I can tell you is that the instrumentation is a beautiful balance of electronic and traditional, the arrangements (particularly the rhythm parts) are highly complex without becoming burdensome to hear, the engineering is absolutely top-notch (no surprise coming from Adam Brown, Brett Nolan and, apparently, Nub-Nub and Jack) and overall the EP is positively sublime. Penny in the Well is another entry in what is easily some of the most gorgeous music being made anywhere today.
Given the quality of the music and the quality of the production planned for the release, it would be a crime to miss the show at the Camp House on April 11.