Music

Advance Base Explores Unexplainable Feelings on 'Animal Companionship'

Photo courtesy of Run For Cover Records

Animal Companionship is indie pop artist Advance Base's most cohesive and accomplished work yet.

Animal Companionship
Advance Base

Run For Cover

21 September 2018

Deep, in-the-pocket sadness. It seems a strange phrase, but it's a thing. That sadness that creeps into your nerves, that sadness that you can feel in your legs. Few songs touch it, as it's so mired in the details, so lost in the fog. The Mountain Goats hit it occasionally, Dylan used to hit it in between cerebral couplets, and country used to be a genre essentially in search of it. The point is that we all know it well, and as much as we avoid in life, we have a strange way of searching it out in our art. Advance Base, the music project of Chicago's Owen Ashworth, has spent his time making music around this area, never quite hitting it directly. On Animal Companionship, his most cohesive and accomplished work yet, he drags the listener to the depths of the saddest complacency.

Advance Base used to be called Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and that's the number one fact about Owen Ashworth's current project. From there the music speaks for itself. The name change was likely more so for saving face then for changing styles, as the differences between the two acts are sometimes hard to miss and sometimes hard to notice. CFTPA did have an affinity for those cheapest of tones, but that doesn't mean Advance Base avoids them. On the contrary, the percussion of Animal Companionship sounds like stock 1990s Yamaha beats.

The music on Animal Companionship is minimal, and that's where its strengths lie. Some of Advance Base's past work lost itself in the production. Here, synths float and grind lightly as Ashworth details the possibly intertwined stories of the protagonists. Indiana comes up often. Being newly sober comes up a few times as well. Moving is a theme. All this adds to the main focus: love and the flame left in the gut when it's not working or when it's lost.

"I came to Indiana when I was 32. I didn't know anyone but you," begins "Dolores and Kimberly". In print, the words could be anything, but with Ashworth's performance, they come off as languid and downcast. Even when he's describing the characters' celebration with champagne, it's felt quite the opposite. The album is awash with this feeling of sad acceptance.

The legendary Spanish filmmaker, Luis Buñuel, made The Exterminating Angel in 1962. It's a surrealist film, but there's a moments where the feeling is so real it's hard to miss. The characters are stuck in a room. They can't leave. But the twist is this: nothing is stopping them. The doors are not locked, the windows of the house could be opened. They just can't leave. There's no explanation. The characters just feel it. Something is stopping them from moving on. There are so many feelings in life we cannot explain, so many unexplainable feelings. Animal Companionship is an encapsulation of those ghosts in our heads, those phantom feelings in our bodies. We'll just have to live with them sometimes, I guess.

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