Alias & Tarsier: Plane That Draws a White Line

Alias and Tarsier are so reverential toward each others' work that they spend far too much time staying out of each others' way.

Alias & Tarsier

Plane That Draws a White Line

Contributors: Alias, Tarsier
Label: Anticon
US Release Date: 2006-09-19
UK Release Date: 2006-09-18

When you spend an insanely long time working on something, don't you want to know that all of your work was necessary, that not a single moment was wasted? Of course you do. This is the principle that makes Alias & Tarsier's latest EP, Plane That Draws a White Line, forgivable.

The story goes like this: In creating Brookland/Oaklyn, the full-length incarnation of this particular collaboration, Alias and Tarsier spent the better part of over a year and a half e-mailing each other back and forth, creating an album with each other without ever really having to verbally communicate with each other. At a mere ten tracks, that album evidently didn't represent the full spectrum of all that Alias and Tarsier put together over that period of time. Enter Plane That Draws a White Line, an EP that serves the dual purpose of allowing Anticon to release the leftovers from the album proper, and also release a few remixes of selected tracks from Brookland/Oaklyn, including one remix that was languishing on Alias & Tarsier's first release, the Dr. C 12". It all wraps the collaboration up in a nice, tight little bow and gives everyone involved a sense of closure.

This closure will especially come in handy for an audience who, after absorbing the disconnected, disaffected, and ultimately disappointing full-length, might have seen some potential for the future. Specifically, any goodwill the duo had built up with that full-length will be summarily tossed out the window.

Title track "Plane That Draws a White Line" is, for its part, a decent way to spend four minutes. Over some typical skittery beats and atypical (for Alias, anyway) acoustic guitar, Tarsier breathily intones lyrics of lost innocence amidst melancholy imagery. It's relentlessly pleasant for all its sorrow, and Tarsier's Beth Gibbons-meets-Björk voice rises above the realm of wallpaper, if just barely. Alias adds some nice syncopated synth noises and gives and takes with the texture just enough to keep it interesting, making it one of the better tracks on Brookland/Oaklyn. Not surprisingly, perhaps, that makes it by far the best of the non-remixed tracks to be found on the EP that shares its name.

The rest of the new songs honestly do sound like leftovers. Alias is predictable, Tarsier is just kind of there, and there's nothing here to engage a listener, much less have that listener's head nodding or brain thinking. It's the worst kind of background music; that is, the kind that gets annoying after not all that long because of the constant buzz of air that accompanies Tarsier's voice. Sure, she puts down some much-appreciated xylophone noises on "9:24 Cigarette (Version 1)", but there's just nothing to the rest of the song -- it's a feather floating on the wind, pretty as it happens, destined to be forgotten mere seconds later.

The remixes are most notable for the possibility that they add a third party to this idea of collaboration without association -- it's entirely possible that, like Alias and Tarsier themselves, none of these remixers actually spoke to either of the primary artists, that they were simply e-mailed a pile of tracks and told to do their respective things. The high-BPM overhaul that Boom Bip gives "Plane That Draws a White Line" is actually pretty neat, and worth hearing if you're a fan of his, and Odd Nosdam totally cLOUDDEADs "Ligaya" up, to the point that there's very little left of the original, including the vocals -- he's the only one who dared mess with Tarsier's voice, where most of the artists here were far more comfortable simply giving Alias's production the once-over. On the other hand, whoever thought that green-lighting Neotropic's utterly monotonous eight-minute take on "5 Year Eve" was a good idea should be out of a job.

The EP's grand prize goes to Healamonster, who draws on his own past experience working with Tarsier and draws up the perfect backdrop for her, complete with well-placed pianos and a propensity to give us something interesting to listen to in the backing track, even when Tarsier is singing. It's an approach that actually points out the fatal flaw in the relationship between Tarsier and Alias -- the two were so reverential of each others' work that they spent most of their time staying out of each others' way. By offering a production job that stays consistently engaging throughout, Healamonster gives us an idea of what Alias should have done, right next to a pile of tracks that demonstrate what he (and a few of the remixers along for the ride) shouldn't have done, but did anyway. If Alias and Tarsier ever team up again for an encore collaboration, maybe talking to each other in the studio once or twice wouldn't be such a bad idea.






Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.