Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Kinetic poetics

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2001 at 12:00 AM

After one listen, I was compelled to buy new monitor headphones that I could ill afford. After the second time around, I knew I made the right decision. Perhaps it would be best to stop the review here. But in order to quench any lingering doubts, elaboration might help.

In 1997, Plaid (aka Ed Handley and Andy Turner) crafted the inimitable Not For Threes, demonstrating that synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers can speak as articulately and naturally as any multilingual poet. Two years later, Rest Proof Clockwork, a follow-up debatably as successful, broke down elements of hip hop and campy synth play into a comprehensive statement about Plaid’s continued relevance. Today, much of its sound is comprised of the same basic ingredients, but the resulting dish is far more sophisticated.

Double Figure places the group on a higher level and can be thought of as Plaid’s first novel. It’s a world unto itself — a personal narrative that spans a digitally compressed lifetime. Filled with as many audacious achievements as nagging personal letdowns, it grabs your imagination and relentlessly captivates until you accept its plot as reality.

“Eyen” sets the stage with gentle bass squiggling, subliminal guitars and “X-Files” synth whispers that would be horribly tacky if extracted from Plaidland. Track by track, effervescent funk builds and morphs its way through brilliant melodies, each speaking of a different escapade. “Zamami” takes things down several notches to create Plaid’s most introspective and achingly gorgeous ambient moments (save for about three other tracks — all on this album). “Zala” is intensely moving with a synthetic flute line controlled by a driving mechanical bass line. “Ti Bom” is the most organically perfect acid-jazz cut in recent memory and smoothly eludes the thesaurus. I could go on.

Another modern classic on Warp.

E-mail Robert Gorell at letters@metrotimes.com.

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