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Plaid Scintilli Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A strong set mixing their traditionally restless energy with focused momentum.

Mike Barnes 2011

As members of The Black Dog and under various aliases – including Balil and Atypic – Andy Turner and Ed Handley emerged into the so-called Intelligent Techno scene of the 1990s, becoming Plaid in 1991. Their particular intelligence manifested itself in a peculiarly sophisticated approach to rhythm and melody, which broke out of the foursquareness that so limited their less-inspired peers.

This intricacy was epitomised by the denser tracks on Spokes (2003), but on Scintilli there is more space in their music leading on, one assumes, from the mood pieces they supplied for film soundtracks like Tekkonkinkreet (2006). As a way into this for neophytes, the music – shiny note patterns stacked up in multifaceted shapes – is perfectly represented visually by the ambigram on the cover.

The twitchy, restless grooves with see-sawing bass notes that have hallmarked their sound are present on tracks like Thank and African Woods, but are taken onto another level on Talk To Us. Here a bassline, which sounds like Detroit techno with a Latin influence, kicks in under a melody of bent keyboard notes. It all seems to be progressing steadily until beats drop out and the whole shape of the rhythm suddenly changes to disconcerting effect.

In the past Plaid have worked with singers like Björk and Nicolette, but on Scintilli a female voice is smudged and warped into the delicate musical box-like structures of Missing. The voice turns up again, woven into the fabric of Unbank. This extraordinary hybrid sounds like a floor-filling dance track, but with a rock-like momentum and an almost prog-like fussiness, which is oddly reminiscent of William Orbit.

Although the duo’s music is known for its restless energy, what makes Scintilli such a strong set is that this activity is balanced by tracks that stray into different areas like the Kraftwerk-like momentum of Eye Robot. 35 Summers is one of the loveliest moments. Over a distant wash of keyboards chords, Plaid create a multilayered drift of what sounds like piano and tuned percussion notes. The effect is, literally, scintillating.

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