Switched On – Plaid: Feorm Falorx (Warp Records)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Plaid have now been with Warp Records for 30 years, which is an astonishing length of time in electronic music. In that time they have established themselves as a consistent source of innovation and quality, with a distinctive musical style that evades categorisation but still provides a great deal of harmonic and colourful interest.

To say that the duo – Ed Handley and Andy Turner – are underrated would be judging it about right, for audiences have simply grown accustomed to their regular output of interesting and vital music. As with the previous ten albums, Feorm Falorx has a curious title, which relates to an imaginary performance at the Feorm festival on the planet Falorx, where musicians are removed from time, space and the physical limitations of their bodies.

The album is a proper concept, to be accompanied with visual content and a graphic novel.

What’s the music like?

Plaid’s music continues in a life all of its own, and true to form this album is a distinctive yet elusive set of compositions. Alternately serious and playful, their music still sounds incredibly fresh – and, appropriately, as though it has beamed in from another planet.

There is so much going on in a typical Plaid track, with so many nuances and instinctive changes of gear, that it takes several listens for thorough appreciation of what the pair achieve in the course of their tracks.

The fictional festival set bursts into life with Perspex, a rush of spring-like germination which also sounds like a set of melodic wind chimes. The following Modenet has a foursquare rhythm, but as with a lot of Plaid’s work there is syncopation in play, giving it a slightly quirky disposition.

Elsewhere, Wondergan is as close as Plaid will surely get to the disco, with its chirpy riffing and swinging rhythm, while the Mason Bee collaboration Nightcrawler has a momentum borne of Krautrock.

C.A. has an impressive scope and a longer, majestic line, going deeper in its emotion. Meanwhile Cwtchr starts brightly but gradually a shadow falls over its complexion through the darker shades of the bass. Speaking of bass, Bowl is appropriately named, powered by a sonorous and rounded lower line.

Return To Return reminds us of how many layers Plaid can get into a track, with rich sounds that are stripped away to reveal the workings of their rhythm section. Later on, as the set hits its peak, the stabbing riffs of Tomason and the increasingly sharp synth lines of Wide I cut through like otherworldly rave anthems.

Does it all work?

It does. There is a lot going on here, but as always with Plaid nothing is superfluous, and the sheer enjoyment of making electronic music comes through.

Is it recommended?

It is – and it really is time that we stopped taking Plaid for granted as much as they do. They continue to make exquisitely crafted music, beautifully shaped and richly coloured. Those on the planet of Falorx are in for a treat!

Listen

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