Frolic with the Foliage — Snapped Ankles as Band of the Month.
As we enter the third month of this year, we have already faced trying times from political upheaval and weather that is only but a delightful guise for the planet’s suffering at the hands of global warming, and a continuation of a socio-economic divide thanks to gentrification and rising house prices. Yet it is in these moments that visionaries emerge from the underwood and damp crevices of the London streets wielding artistic expression that works to critique the society it disdains.
Cue Snapped Ankles, this March’s band of the month, an enigmatic quartet who bring together the grimace of those who suffer at the hands of those in power and natural beauty of the shrubbery found in the slithers of green left in London to create music which they describe as “AGROcultural PUNKtronica”.
Formed in 2011 and made up entirely of anonymous figures draped in foliage, the foursome initially sprouted out of London’s warehouse art communities as a trio, where they were known for multisensory parties and instruments made from their surroundings.
Fast forward to 2019 and not much of their set-up has changed since the beginning. Still armed with their home-made woodland electronica, they now reside in the ears of listeners eager to be sheltered by the canopy of sound that Snapped Ankles create.
Maintaining a completely unique synesthetic style, the band are perhaps the only musicians who successfully amalgamate technology, man and nature into one. Utilising their surroundings to the max, their songs not only observe the socio-political climate but sees their instruments made from whatever they have to hand. Making synths out of logs and bushes they are a manifestation of a woodland infected by electronics (“sort of like the Borg from Star Trek” the trio once stated to The Quietus). Part art-piece, part plant, part band, Snapped Ankles are almost 2019’s answer to COUM, with more psycho-tropic rhythms and boscage beats.
Having already released a debut album, Come Play the Trees (quite literally), and a handful of singles, Snapped Ankles have made a name for themselves despite the members remaining nameless. In the synth-punk madness and tribal overtones of their first album, their listener easily falls into their pagan-esque trap of drum beats and techno sound-waves.
This popularity saw a rise in sought after performances and the desire to dance with the trees, which spread not only across London but across the continent. Embarking on new frontiers of sound, Come Play the Trees contained hits such as ‘I Want My Minutes Back’, ‘Jonny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin’ and ‘Dancing with the Moon’. Released with The Leaf Label, their debut geminated quickly into what can only be understood as the fully fledge love-child of krautrock royalty Can and anarcho-punks Crass who was conceived during the full moon. Carelessly magical but immoderately satirical their first album set into motion their reputation of as masters of DIY circuit-bending tracks that rebel using sticks and stones.
Whatever poncey interpretation a listener takes away from the band, it’s most likely true and false at the same time. Snapped Ankles have become both the visualisation of how music and plant can become one in the 21st century, while at the same time not meaning to be anything at all.
Nonetheless, it’s perfectly acceptable to be under the impression that they are the embodiment of a toughened plain tree, breathing in the toxicity of our society only to excrete them into something of use. As these wildlings prove with their newest release: Stunning Luxury. The warm up to the album release has marked a rise in the band’s popularity, starting at the end of 2018 after the single release of ‘Drink and Glide’ to not only their second single release ‘Rechargeable’ but also a sold out show in February.
Correlating the continuing failings of socio-political institutions, 2019’s Snapped Ankles are continuing their attack on “The Man” with manic modulations and fir-lined faces. The only transgression in this second release sees them take on more elaborate guerrilla tactics against private property purveyors and pretentious coffee shop creators. Supposedly taking on the “guise of the very agents of their community’s demise – the property developers and brokers who heat the market on the promise of Stunning Luxury”— the album is a clear display of the band’s math rock roots and topiary skills in refining a sound that leans more on the electronic side than folk-psychedelia.
While this may seem like Snapped Ankles have lost touch with their natural habitat and have become part of the system, they, in fact, have assimilated themselves in the metallic vista only with the intention to pollinate the superstructure with a coup from the undergrowth up. Songs ‘Pestisound (Moving Out)’, “Tailpipe’ and ‘Three Steps to Development’ epitomise this notion, all containing the despair in the moral apathy of capitalism. Take for example the line from ‘Pestisound’, the album’s opening track’, which the band claim ‘The streets have changed… don’t blame us when you’re compliant’ to really centre their focus on the complicity in which we all suffer at the hands of the “rule” makers and the price-of-living creators
Sounding like something DFA records would have released twelve years ago, Snapped Ankles prove that they are foragers of futuristic sounds, who have the ability to makes tunes that provide a taste of distance future while maintaining the timeless quality of an ancient oak with countless rings. Like trees that persist to grow around the brutalist landscapes of metal fences and derelict buildings, Snapped Ankles show us how nature of the underbelly truly trumps all else.
Listen to their Stunning Luxury here:
Words by Aimee Williams-Maynard