Plaid is the London-based British electronic music duo Andy Turner and Ed Handley, one of my favorite electronic acts of all time. By turns warm and awash with beauty, alien, angular, sweet and oft chopped up, their style is almost instantly identifiable, but never predictable. They have been pioneers of analog (and more recently also digital) experimentation, writing music together for 20+ years. Prior to that, around 1989, they were two of the four founding members of "The Black Dog", an experimental group that defied classification really, although if I had to try I'd say they had elements of techno, dark ambient, field recording, as well as breakbeat (which has a similar drum pattern not unlike early hip-hop, however the bpm are higher).
|The booklet-free P-Brane cd.|
Plaid (as well as artists such as Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards Of Canada, Squarepusher etc.) is often referred to as "IDM" ("intelligent dance music"), an electronica sub-genre that without a doubt wins the award for the most ridiculously pretentious name. Most artists, Plaid included, do not embrace the term. Here is what Andy Turner & Ed Handley aka Plaid said in an interview for Neon Nettle about it:
NN: Plaid, like other Warp artists are lumped under the category of Intelligent Dance Music-what does IDM mean to you?
EH: It means it's superior to all other dance music.
AT: Yes, it means it's the best.
EH: You can't make IDM unless you have a post doctorate qualification.
AT: And you need minimum a PHD to appreciate it. Which means our fan base is small. But loyal.
EH: Yes, "IDM" is a terrible name.
"IDM" is meant to describe an experimental type of "dance" music that is often rhythmically challenging (or for the uninitiated, possibly baffling), and often includes elements of post-techno/ambient/glitch/breakbeat/drum&bass/experimental/jungle/avant-garde AND....so on. It can be danceable to varying degrees, yet it is equally or perhaps more suited to "headphone" or "armchair" listening (personally I go with the latter when I listen to most electronic music-my same mode of listening to and experiencing classical music).
|Because I own the vinyl too (I have two technics 1210's but haven't had time to spin records in years)|
The two tracks of note (for me they are nothing short of beautiful) here is the opener "Coat" and then the third piece "Stills".
"Coat" (track 1) begins with a (brief) but strong sense of melancholia, slowly moving like grey clouds. The clouds are broken up suddenly by a heavy bassline and drum breaks, followed by lingering piano chords buried deep under the weighted drum break. The splintered sounds of voices emerge, sounding as if they are coming out of a high-pitched, glitchy voicemail recording. Swathes of opulent strings glide in, "sounding" (to me) like witnessing the most ethereal sunrise imaginable (this section gives me chills every time). The distorted voices (around 3:21) come to the fore and the heavenly "string" like music returns now in descending and ascending keys bringing us to the close. I only wish this track was twice as long!
"Stills" (track 3) is more complex and opens with an electrified beat that is layered over an exuberant ambient background; suddenly, the drums silence themselves as gorgeous harp-like arpeggios begin to blossom, opening like flowers during a meteor shower . The drums kick back in, however now with considerably higher beats-per-minute, and a fragmented, irregular time signature that brings a kinetic energy and a "mildly" manic, driving percussion that dances, at it's own break-neck pace-with the heavenly arpeggios until it all comes to something of an abrupt ending. Lovely!!
"Diddymousedid" and "Mfaus" are just okay-I will typically play the whole EP without skipping them, however most of their pieces are more interesting in general (and they have put out over 12 full albums and many other releases over the years). The two tracks that I am "pushing" ;) on you, dear visitors-are worth the price of admission no matter what the cost!
Love it or hate it, I would really be interested in reading your thoughts on this post. The more the merrier..
Enjoy I hope!