Plaid: Polymer – album review
LP / CD / DL
Tenth studio album from Warp Records mainstays Plaid sees the duo in full storytelling mode. Simon Tucker reviews.
Ed Handley and Andy Turner have some stories to tell us. Stories of anger and tales of hope. These stories are wordless yet remain powerful and direct. Polymer is chapter and verse and we start in the deep end. Meds Fade is our point of entry and as you can guess from the title this is not going to be a gentle baby-step. Meds Fade is loaded with menace and twisted synth. It marches forward on a slab of marching bass whilst around it sounds contort and morph full of fractured realism and a treated vocal. Humanity is here but it is distant and untrustworthy. Thrilling confusion gives you high expectations and off we go….
The finer details of Plaid’s craftsmanship are exposed early as we actually start to find ourselves, with Los, in a groove with hop-stepping patterns of bass smoothing the path ahead before more and more discordant sounds are added leaving us somewhere else entirely. Somewhere where our surroundings are not to be trusted. Plaid’s gift with the craft of wordless storytelling is revealed early as Los manages to get you to a place where you forget where you even started. It is the first track where as it progresses the little details add up to an experience where you feel fully transported. This is Polymer’s main quality. The art of going from A to B without conscious thought.Tracks follow a pattern where a rhythm is generated and sets a tone and visual aide for the listener. You are in a different place with each track. The start of a new story. Then, as the tracks progress, Plaid add the finest of details taking the story into different directions with each added element. Not a single sound on Polymer is superfluous. Each has a vital part to play.Take the odd backwards synth that slashes through the treated voices on Ops or the various discreet and beautiful melody lines that run through Dancers. Polymer is all about the finer details.
So what does Polymer and its individual parts tell us about its authors? Without knowing Ed Handley and Andy Turner personally and them telling you the thought process behind the album you can only make your own mind up thanks to the thirteen vignettes contained within. What this writer assumes is that the duo have had an extreme desire to make this album (their tenth) their most cohesive and visually rich. Polymer tells us it is possible to make tracks that leave the listener in a different place to where they started, not entirely sure of how they got there, yet never once being forgettable. Polymer tells us that instrumental music in the right hands can still be narrative driven and contain both emotion and intelligence. Polymer tells us that Plaid have been angry at times, maybe even disturbed, yet they also remain hopeful and optimistic.Polymer is the sound of realism and fantasy smashing together and Polymer tells us that Plaid remain a distinct and vital voice in the world of electronic art.
Give yourself over to it.