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San Proper – Animal review

The field of electronic music has always suffered a lack of personality among many of its protagonists; not so much in their physical demeanour, but rather in the way they write and perform their music. There’s a prevailing stereotype of the “serious” DJ hunched behind the decks with an expressionless face playing austere body music, and in truth a lot of electronica has just lacked the human quality that more traditional band formats can provide. That’s a broadly sweeping statement, and when faced with some of the bloated egos that come with a bit of rock n’ roll, humility can be a very endearing prospect. Honestly though, a bit of spark never does any harm. Acts such as Noze, Matthew Dear, Bodycode and Dave Aju have been ambassadors for credible dance music that can sport character and self-sung vocals as a challenge to the wallflowers of old.

If ever there was a Dutch contribution to this phenomenon, it would be San Proper. Since emerging on Rush Hour with a series of collaborative 12”s, the flamboyant artist has plastered himself all over his music. Not a track goes by without his half-serious vocals intoning any manner of tangents from the sublime and spiritual to the ridiculous. In five years he’s managed to make a nest for himself in some impressive places, from Perlon and M>O>S to Dekmantel, but now the prolific vagabond is firmly back in the saddle at Rush Hour with his debut full-length.

There’s something quite luxurious about the way Proper crafts his own take on house music. The instruments used are always rounded and organic, even when it’s a subtle synth line. Most noticeably though there are live drums scattered throughout Animal, and plenty more sounds besides. “Shells” provides a lavish diversion from the more floor-focused tracks with some creepy acoustic guitar, while “Colours & Colours” funks off of a militaristic snare roll. On “The Architect”, Proper capitalises on a dreamy string sample as a backbone for a slithering arrangement seemingly aimed anywhere but the obvious.

There are times when it feels as though Proper is a little too concerned with being off the wall, which comes through in his sometimes-questionable lyrics. However there’s no denying the ego that informs such inclusions also shapes the pleasant surprises that come to define this album. As he proclaims himself to be “the architect of this world”, you can tell his pride informs the creative decisions that he makes. If it’s a choice between all or nothing, it’s better to have artists like Proper in the world who will always provide entertainment, and more often than not great music in the process.

Oli Warwick


1. Another Sign
2. A Choice Named Joyce
3. The Architect
4. Colors & Colours
5. Brain Soup
6. Shells
7. Water Castle
8. Night Falls
9. Animal
10. Autosea
11. Swing Home
12. Déjà Vu