Affect Display expertly captures the dichotomy of existing in different spaces on Animal Drift Animal.
There was a time when I prided myself on my routine and discipline: Wake up; follow the unwritten rules on how to make my way through a day’s work most efficiently; go to the gym; come home; write a blog post; watch some TV; go to bed at a decent hour; repeat. It was a monotonous existence, but it’s what I chose. When I lost that choice, forced into a new monotony thanks to a microscopic space invader, I looked at my new routines as detention rather than discipline. I was a hamster in a cage on a wheel, gaining weight with each rotation. I was a needle in the run-out groove on a record waiting for someone to come by and lift the arm.
Whether he knows it or not, producer Damien Smith, who goes by the professional name Affect Display, manifests much of how I felt in the early part of the pandemic on his debut album, Animal Drift Animal. I imagine that Smith, too, must be a very disciplined person, one who splits his time between the frantic energy of metropolitan Toronto and the inert tranquillity of Ontario’s Prince Edward County. He expertly captures the dichotomy of existing in different spaces on Animal Drift Animal. Smith’s soundscapes don’t so much ebb and flow as they transmogrify through repetition, dynamics, atmosphere, and musical motifs. It’s not unique how each of its seven songs present as a unified whole, but what is impressive is that the mood/texture/tone shifts occur right in the middle of the songs. Opener “Until the Light Hits the Door” starts with a low industrial humming that surges into what feels like a deep house dance number minus the rhythm before evaporating into wisps of its former self that then accumulate into the frightening gothic doom of “FlightorFury.”
Animal Drift Animal surrounds you; its walls of droning ambience blended with synthesized indie pop and trippy psychedelics act as a transparent barrier between the listener and the external world. Through Affect Display’s soundscapes, all the hurt, pain, and beauty of the outside world are visible, but its warm and haunting cocoon keeps the chaos at a comfortably safe distance. Lately, my new routine has been listening to Animal Drift Animal on endless repeat at the end of the day as a way to slip into something safe. Affect Display’s hypnotic, interconnected works represent a disciplined existence where I am in control again, a world that I make a conscious choice to enter. And I choose to submit.