Everyone has good days and bad days. Sometimes, with minimal effort, everything seems to go your way. You can’t explain it; it just happens. But there are days that no matter how hard you try, and no matter how meticulous your plans, everything falls apart. Toronto’s Scott Cairns is no exception. Recorded between 1998 and 2001 and released under the moniker Puppyhertz, his debut stitch-work of sound, Animal Squad, has moments of sheer sampling genius; it also has moments when you would rather stare at a dripping faucet. But even the bad on Animal Squad suggests a boundless curiosity that sweeps you along for the ride.
The sound palette is fairly typical for this sort of sample-fest: buzzing electronics; quirky samples from far-off whimsical corners of the earth; drums, both the dull and treble-heavy varieties; some female vocals; some male vocals from obscure instructional records. But Cairns adds his own live bass playing to the stew. “Theme de Frankenberry” thrives on an equal balance of these elements, with Cairns’s plucky bass line accompanied by chimes, xylophones and horns. The champ here is “Geto Pedal,” which drags you through a stuttering edit-tape intro before dropping you into a jazzy, vocal chop beat reminiscent of Vocal Studies-era Prefuse 73.
At times, however, it seems that Puppyhertz becomes happy with the beats he’s produced and just lets them repeat. “Alicia Beat” sports an agreeable electro-jazz beat, but it mostly plods on with little extra to hold interest or provide any buildup or structure. In Cairns’s defense, it’s a short song, but there are at least two or three more instances of short repeaters on Animal Sounds.
Despite a few uninspired moments, Animal Sounds is a promising collection that reveals Cairns as a creative producer with a knack for blending unique sounds. There are moments when the haphazard nature of the collage pulls it down, but there’s more than enough to keep it moving. It’s a shame that it took a few years for this record to be released, but now that Puppyhertz is on the radar, it shouldn’t happen again.