On April 29th, Plants and Animals released their first new music in four years. Waltzed In From The Rumbling was recorded over the span of nine seasons as the Montréal-based band finally slowed down, let life unfold around them and creativity flow through them. The album is experimental in its unpredictability and complexity creating a more sophisticated, mature sound than their previous albums. Inspired by Serge Gainsbourg, Van Morrison, J Dilla and John Coltrane, Waltzed In From The Rumbling is a collection of songs that were allowed to be fully explored and left imperfect when it felt right to do so. Time signatures suddenly drop out and disappear; manic strumming and drumming build into cacophonous symphonies that melt into choral a cappella codas; melodies become mantra-like loops; jazz drums, bright guitar tones and funky bass inspire auditory hallucinations. This record is an eclectic stunner.
Plants and Animals now take us Behind The Album, Track by Track and share the stories behind the inventive songs on Waltzed In From The Rumbling.
“We Were One”
We can’t quite remember how this one came together. There was an inexpensive Italian 12-string acoustic that sounded more like a deck of cards being shuffled than a guitar. There were 10 million edits, some absurd bass that made us smile, a great Levon Helm-meets-J Dilla drum break, a soaring electric guitar melody that magically transforms into strings and somehow a choir at the end (we called our friend Emma in to hit the high note). It wasn’t even a song until it was over, and then all of a sudden it was this grandiose overture, bigger than life. There are themes that show up in other songs hidden everywhere. We couldn’t imagine this one anywhere else than at the top of the album. The lyrics came on the spot. None of them matter more than “So simple and sweet / We were one.”
“No Worries Gonna Find Us”
We kept laughing at this strange feel we found ourselves with. What is it? The bastard child of Ali Farka Toure and Gary Glitter. Texas Tom Shuffle gets lost in the Sahara with John Lennon? It reminded us our respective Dads’ Men at Work records that we each now keep on our own record shelves. Or that Johnny Clegg and Savuka sound from the ’80s. It’s ’80s sub-equatorial white people dance music? It bounces. Our pal Brad Barr heard an early take and said, “Play some guitar solos over it.” So Nic and Warren took turns noodling over the entire song. Bingo. Nic wrote that curveball drum fill on his computer and Woody brought it to life. It’s a big fuck you to uncontrollable anxiety, simple. For four minutes and 30 seconds you’re safe.
True story: Middle of January, deep in the Montreal winter downswing, we find ourselves yet again at the studio working on The Record. Everyone is exhausted, brain-dead tired. Nothing is getting done, we give up. Nic puts on an episode of Twin Peaks and we’re all asleep before the opening sequence is done. We wake up a few hours later and there’s a note on the mixing console that reads: “Hope you like it —From You.” No shit.
This is the most cathartic song on the list. Two parts. One is Nic playing guitar out on the front steps of the studio—you can hear the city hum around him. Warren sang over it with a bit of call-and-response from Adèle Trottier-Rivard. Part two is full on. It’s actually a recording of what was, at the time, a very uncertain run through of the moving parts of the track. But everyone played the shit out of it because it was so much fun. We had all these delays going in the headphone mix that we played along to. In our ears it was this crazy dub reggae remix party that kept feeding us and pushing us in ways we would never have otherwise found. We didn’t think for a second we would use that take, but we quickly realized we were wrong. Later that night, Warren sang scratch lyrics as a placeholder. We ended up using those too. It’s one of those cases where our first instincts were the purest ones. But for all the looseness and improvising there’s a weighty core: The original demo for the second part came from Nic’s scholarly interpretation of Messiean’s Technique de mon language musical, which he used to keep under his mattress in the back of the tour mobile. What a guy.
“All of the Time”
This song is shrapnel from another song we blew up, a four-part epic we had chipped away at for more than a year before deciding only to keep the fourth part. And the only part of the fourth part we kept was Woody’s monstrous drum track. You could probably listen to the drums alone for 20 minutes and be entirely happy. It’s dark, a bit scary and highly groovy. So we built on that, adding sounds and moving them around like pieces on a chessboard. Nic’s got a beautifully understated guitar line that somehow made the whole thing go deeper. Woody played a vibraphone line that could have been on Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch and on top of all that bombast, Warren sings softly with this sweet sadness, breaking out that broken falsetto at just the right times.
“So Many Nights”
This one was first inspired by the Serge Gainsbourg feel, oh and Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Big tune. It took us a long time and a few re-trackings to get this one right. We recorded the version that worked late one night with Mishka Stein, the bass player from the Patrick Watson band and Francois Lafontaine, who plays with tons of Quebecois acts, on the Wurlitzer. They’re both musical scientists—one is mellow and one is mad. Perfect. If you listen closely, in the first part of the song there are two basses—one upright and one electric. Nobody does that! Then there’s the second part of the song, recorded in a different session with just the three of us. The bass drives it, and we enhanced that line with a cello, an alto and a fuzzed-out guitar recorded directly into a Neve console. We added strings, orchestral toms, big vocals, it keeps building and building, muscles clench, you’re running towards the edge of a cliff, closer, closer, you leap and you’re free and you can finally say it out loud: “I was in love with you helplessly,” then you die. Then you flip the record.
This came from music Nic wrote for a play—kind of a corny ’80s TV game show theme. Warren and Woody heard the melody and were floored. Timeless and heartbreaking! Warren welded the song into an idea we had going. We still had Mishka and Frank that night so we recorded it on whatever fumes we had left. It has this straight-ahead ’50s quality we love, soaked in nostalgia and melancholy. Warren sang something because it called for somebody singing live. He didn’t exactly know what he was doing, it came from his heart and he sang the shit out of it. It’s his best vocal performance on the record.
“Je voulais te dire”
This is our signature, long, three-part epic. Every album has one. This time, part one is Gainsbourg, part two is Bowie, part three is D’Angelo. Right? But we think it’s entirely P&A—the swing in the time, the direct guitar lines, the everyday lyrics, some choice words in French and the ambitious arc of the tune as a whole. We’re always zooming in and out, looking at the forest, looking at the trees. The hope is that you get on the ride and we take you through peaks and valleys and different technicolour scenes and you get off at the end just a touch dizzy.
“Off the Water”
A fun song to play live. The keys are honky tonk saloon Elton John Fingers McDaniels. The guitar line is Ali Farka Toure meets the Police. Mishka Stein is all over the bass. If you’ve ever been on the Montreal Metro, you’ll recognize that ascending line at the end of the choruses. Giddy up.
“Johnny is a drummer”
A lovely groove. The song actually grew from a scrap from the first session on the record that Warren glued together into something else before one of the last sessions. It’s a hazy lazy place to hang out and we liked it there, so all the other songs we toiled over for weeks and tossed aside be damned. (We have enough B-sides for a pretty good record someday.)
A late night jam. We thought we’d do it again with more pep but eventually fell victim to its swervy charms. You’ve got a pure heart.
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