earinfluxion

earinfluxion

15 December 2016

Plaid:
The Digging Remedy + On Other Hands (Warp)

Plaid’s
latest continues their run of solid electronic outings with their
ninth studio album to date (not including 2 full-length scores). Ed
Handley and Andy Turner have been honing their craft with Plaid as
their primary focus after splitting with Ken Downie’s The Black Dog
project in the mid-90s, and The Digging Remedy feels like an
expansion on the successes of their previous album Reachy Prints
(incidentally, our favorite album of 2014) rather than much of a
detour or surprise, but that is not to diminish from how
well-produced and sequenced the album is. If anything, they’ve
managed to subtly sneak in some cuts that feel like prime, intricate
IDM circa 1997’s Not For Threes (“Dilatone”) or bouncy mid-tempo
jams that recall Restproof Clockwork (“The Bee”) amidst more
fully contemporary sounds like the slow unfolding of opening cut “Do
Matter.”

But perhaps the most Plaid moment of all can be found in
lead single “CLOCK,” whose jaunty melody and chords are
undeniably the duo doing what they do best. So while The Digging
Remedy
might not showcase a bold new direction for Plaid, it does
show off their talents to great success, acknowledging different
styles and sounds that they seem equally comfortable exploring as
complements. “Melifer”’s rhythm section is meticulously arranged
while its musicality relies heavily on cascading plucked harp sounds
and familiar chord stabs, an interesting convergence of what’s
happening in pop music and Plaid’s own instincts. Like many of the
album’s cuts, the track’s majesty only really presents itself when
it’s played start to finish, evolving and building on its ideas with
layers of detail. “Baby Step Giant Step” is a wonderful
centerpiece, with a repetitive array of synths that continues to
expand and grow in scale for its duration, one of the cuts that feels
distinctly new amidst pieces that indulge Plaid’s past successes.
Likewise, “Yu Mountain” feels like an update of Plaid’s
repertoire (perhaps a bit of Scintilli’s nod to bass music, but the
comparisons likely end there), with a fresh clatter of metallic
strikes over its Plaidy chords and syncopation, with a surprise
Pong-ish ricocheting breakdown in the latter half. One reason The
Digging Remedy
might not feel as perfect as its predecessor is its
length; Reachy Prints was only nine tracks and this is twelve. It’s
hard to fault them for including more cuts, though, when the quality
control is quite high. The final tracks on The Digging Remedy are
really beautiful, showing off the duo’s knack for interwoven melodies
and patterns, with flourishes of plucky guitar and extra sparkle to
close the album out in unassuming lushness.

On
Other Hands
, on the other hand, collects four tracks that clearly
stood apart from what made it onto the album. It’s evident from the
first bars of “Elevator,” which begins as a sleek, understated
dancefloor track before their melodic sensibility presents itself.
It’s a gorgeous track equally suited for the dancefloor or intimate
headphones listening, both different from the album and a clear
leading track for this separate EP.

“Odica” pushes further into
fidgety, uptempo territory with a bright, square lead offset with
shifty breaks and details. I’d liken it to their most upbeat and
nervous tracks from Double Figure rather than most of the more lush
and refined sounds of The Digging Remedy, but really it’s just
another case of Plaid showing off yet another thing they do so well;
no complaints here. The same goes for “R.A.B.,” another track
that feels distinctly removed from most of The Digging Remedy, with
an off-kilter musicality that feels right at home in the turn of the
century IDM canon without sacrificing its own Plaidness. Closing cut
“Ooyu” is a curiosity, a sprightly orchestral arrangement rife
with busy flutes and reeds, recalling their majetical ice castle
performance that I saw in Chicago back in 2008, a kindred spirit to
Reachy Prints’ “Liverpool St” closing track in its elaborate
arrangement.

I
suppose it should be no surprise to any semi-regular reader of this
blog that I love Plaid’s music, and so I recommend both the album and
the EP as a combined highlight of 2016. What they may lack in
surprise is more than made up for in their talents as detail-oriented
and sensitive producers, with a high knack for melodic arrangements
that is on display in the best of ways across most of these pieces.

Buy The Digging Remedy: Plaid Store
Buy On Other Hands: Plaid Store

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