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Most of the major Warp electronists can be sold in a few words. Autechre are abrasive, abstract and mathematical, Boards of Canada make colourful, subtly nostalgic sample soundscapes, and with Aphex Twin you think of cheeky-chappy splutterage or Satie-style ambient minimalism. But the latest bleepsters to cross my path, Plaid, are much harder to put a finger on. Their mid-tempo pastel coloured electronica isn't at all immediate. On the first few tracks on "Not for Threes", and for a large chunk of the album, they combine twitching beats with gentle Orbital-like techno blips. It's only until the calypso of "Myopia" that they seem to strike out with a distinctive individual gesture.
At the risk of sounding an electronic philistine, it's the songs with vocals that really leap out at you straight away. A lush bubble-bath of synths, and a pulsing Tricky-ish drum and bass, envelops Nicolette's miaowing vocals on the catchy "Extork". This album will probably have been snatched up by Björk fans, as her lead vocal and the melancholy electronica on "Lilith" adds up to a track that would fit in comfortably among her "Homogenic" era material. On the new-agey but distinctive "Rakimou" an Arabic string drone and a floaty vocal are mingled slinkily with the synths. But apart from a few occasions, such as the imposing orchestral textures at the end of "Prague Radio", their straightforward instrumental bleepers don't have as much colour. So either this is one of their less developed albums, or maybe I'm not as much of an electronica fan as I thought I was.
July 28, 2005