Forging ever bolder and emotive paths through electronic music, Plaid are set to release their 10th studio album ‘Polymer’ on June 7th via Warp Records. The album’s 13 tracks cover energetic bangers, bright melodic visceral rhythms and hypnotic wombic textures to create perhaps their most cohesive, direct album to date.
The innovative duo Ed Handley and Andy Turner have been expanding the realm of electronic music as Plaid since they diverged from trio The Black Dog in the early 90s. In 2019, Plaid stand alongside the likes of Aphex Twin, Autechre and Nightmares on Wax as mainstays of the Warp label as it reaches its 30th anniversary, celebrating achievements in music like few others. Their adventurous and playful approach has taken them to working with Björk and drawing comparisons to fellow collaborators Mark Bell, Arca, Haxan Cloak and more recent Releases by Skee Mask and Daniel Avery. They’ve worked with the London Sinfonietta, the Southbank Gamelan Players, composed for Felix’s Machines robotic sculptures, and soundtracked events as diverse as reindeer migration in northern Europe to a level in popular platformer Little Big Planet 3. In a live capacity their show straddles both a contemporary and club capacity, able to pack venues from Sydney Opera House and Southbank to Bloc and Berghain.
Covering a wide range of emotions, influences and inspirations; ‘Polymer’ is an album for modern times. It’s creation was informed by a manifesto of Polyphony, Pollution and Politics; clashing themes of environment, synthetics, survival/mortality and humanity’s (dis)connection.
“The problems and benefits of Polymers felt like good themes for this album, their repetitious strength, endurance and troubling persistence, the natural versus the synthetic, silk and silicone, the significant effect they have on our lives.”
The opening machinic grind of ‘Meds Fade’ conveys the fading effects of medication and the emerging clarity of the grey envelopes of reality. With the ever rising techno tension of ‘Maru’ we feel the final, exhausting push to reach a goal.
In turn, ‘Dancers’ is blissfully euphoric: an ode to free movement for free movement’s sake, inspired by seeing meteor showers, the milky way on a clear dark night and people dancing in an audience. Snippets of voices lend a human element, albeit twisted by machines: ‘Ops’ loops a wordless refrain with synthetic echoes over D&B rhythms.
‘Drowned Sea’ was directly inspired by finding decades old plastic packaging washed up on the coastline and reading about microplastics in the food chain. Like particles of plastic, Plaid distilled sounds through granular synths, reducing the whole but unable to completely destroy it.
Closing track ‘Praze’ – an old word for meadow – relates to the disappearance of most of Britain’s wildflower meadows. The out-of-times, Penguin Cafe Orchestra-esque plucked melodies feel like a final melancholic reminder that, despite the complexities of life in 2019, hope still remains.