“Sounds like the musique concrète pioneers they were”: Pink Floyd’s Animals Dolby Edition

 Pink Floyd - Animals Dolby Atmos Edition.
Pink Floyd - Animals Dolby Atmos Edition.
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Pink Floyd have always been looking for ways to make listening more imitative of how the human brain perceives sound. In 1967, they became the first group to present their music live with a custom-built quadraphonic speaker system and a panning control device they nicknamed the Azimuth Coordinator. More recently, there has been a plethora of spatial audio editions of The Dark Side Of The Moon to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The scuffle for repackaged Animals products has been less frenzied. It’s the black sheep of their 70s era – a challenging, sometimes confrontational album that nevertheless sold four million copies.

Given a Dolby Atmos 5.1 surround sound remix by James Guthrie in 2018, that mix has made it to Blu-ray six years later, with added high resolution stereo and 5.1 mixes and the 1977 original stereo mix.

During the listening session Prog attended, we counted nine speakers around the room with six on the ceiling. Such optimal listening conditions aren’t essential – it can still be enjoyed to on Dolby Atmos headphones, soundbars or home speaker set-ups.

Opener Pigs On The Wing – where Roger Waters’ voice is accompanied by a single acoustic guitar – is not what spatial sound was designed for, though the contrast with the oncoming Dogs serves to highlight the flatness of stereo and the panoramic density of Atmos.

What might have once caused audible cognitive dissonance becomes multi-textural and multi-dimensional

David Gilmour’s overdubbed duelling guitars arrive and become conversational as they reverberate on either side of the room; and then the pitch-shifting synth solo lasers the brain as the clutter is distributed evenly around the room.

Pigs (Three Different Ones) also benefits from spatial separation, with Mike Oldfield-like ostinatos becoming airborne, and the use of a vocoder – incongruous on the original – sounding like it was placed here for this very moment.

The distorted animal noises are less scratchy, and Floyd start to sound like the musique concrète pioneers they were, rather than keepers of a farmful of flatulent quadrupeds.

It’s really the space rock of Sheep, though, that’s the pinnacle. Nick Mason’s opening fills hit synapses as we ping through several dimensions within a few seconds. What might have once caused audible cognitive dissonance becomes multi-textural and multi-dimensional.

It’s been noted many times before that Animals is Pink Floyd’s harshest-sounding record, coming out in 1977, the year punk broke. If its rougher sound was in any way subliminally influenced by Johnny Rotten wearing antagonistic “I hate Pink Floyd” T-shirts, then this version definitively claims the record back for proggers everywhere.

Animals 2018 Remix – Dolby Atmos is on sale now via Warner Music.