Plaid: Reachy Prints (Warp)
Ed Handley and Andy Turner are way too good to be taken for granted. I reminded myself of that when Reachy Prints surfaced three years after their last full-length, 2011’s Scintilli. That album, like this one exploits their strengths while touching on new ground selectively, often in ways that are subtle enough to creep in unnoticed at first. Whereas Scintilli dabbled in some darker dubstep trends and Fehlmann-esque techno gallop, Reachy Prints finds the duo to be delving deeper into the melodic sensibility that makes them so special. They still manage to touch on current trends, but it’s never without putting their keen sense of melody and harmony first. Case in point: it would be easy to dismiss the third track, “Nafovanny,” as aiming for chillwave, but they instead take it somewhere much more sublime and elegant. It’s really their knack for rhythm and lush melodies complementing one another that makes it such a success, like most of their catalogue. There are some gorgeous embellishments on opener “OH” and especially closer “Liverpool St” that honor the orchestral arrangements the duo showed off at their 2008 winter performance in Chicago’s Millennium Park. (I was surprised that Scintilli offered rather little in that vein, so it’s nice to hear some of that explored here.) “Liverpool St” is in fact probably my favorite of the bunch, starting with a spry flutter of woodwinds and strings before a rhythm section snaps everything in a jauntier tempo and syncopation. “Hawkmoth” is another gorgeous one when it comes to interesting chord progressions and melodies, with a cadence and style that is distinctly theirs.
In the rather swift and succinct playback of the album, there’s only one track that doesn’t hit the spot to me. “Slam” is a perfectly good track in its own right, but for whatever reason I find myself wishing it didn’t appear where it does; its repetitious gallop somehow at first feels less fully formed to me than the gorgeousness that flanks it, but it does evolve into something quite nice in the end. However, that’s a very small gripe about what is otherwise one of Plaid’s best releases to date. It’s nice to hear them flexing their melodic prowess fully here, because that is at the core of what makes their music so wonderful. Easily a contender for the best of the year so far.