Prolific they may be but a new album from Plaid is almost always a cause for celebration. From the opening bars of the prowling ‘Do Matter‘, The Digging Remedy delivers what you want. High-end electronica that maintains its Detroit roots but stalks around its own domain. Some of it is quite ecstatic, some of it introverted and brooding: pretty much all of it is excellent.
Consisting of founding members of the legendary Black Dog, Plaid is Andy Turner and Ed Handley. Releasing records since 1991, their career is an object lesson in rarely putting a foot wrong. Also an object lesson in being unafraid to experiment with sounds outside a genre that seems barely able to contain them. A case in point being ‘The Bee‘, here. Shuffling ambience it may be but using guitars in a way that is not a gauche adjunct but fully integrated is pretty darned delicious. Nagging and insistent like a techno rhythm should be, it’s trance-inducing without being trance. It’s easy to see why artists such as Bjork wish to work with them, offering as they do, an invite to an incredibly imaginative and quietly magical world.
Not that one should see them as mere studio boffins or trickmasters. They have a rare way with melody as seen here on the uplifting ‘Melifer‘. Proof if proof were needed that one can avoid the trite whilst also pushing all the right buttons. Couple that with complex beats and time signatures that often defy immediate understanding yet manage to be utterly accessible and it’s a pretty killer package. You like it now…you’ll still be hearing new parts on the tenth listen.
Whether all this qualifies as post-techno, as sometimes described, seems moot. Whilst it certainly isn’t four to the floor, big room bangers, neither were all of the pioneering early records from across the Atlantic that inspired the band and, of course, the Sheffield scene from which Warp Records sprang. Some, like ‘Saladore‘ certainly make beautifully effective and pure club tracks but the majority simply lives in its own space. Thoughtful and thought-provoking music without being head-smackingly worthy.
Drifting along to the clonking epic ‘Baby Step Giant Step‘ it’s impossible not to be swept up. For a new listener or a longtime fan, this is one of the records of the year so far and a worthy addition to a quite excellent discography.