Music

Imitating Aeroplanes: Planet Language

The middle of the album by itself would represent a largely unremarkable debut for the electropop of Imitating Aeroplanes. But the beginning and end of this album are so strong that they lift up the whole record.


Imitating Aeroplanes

Planet Language

Label: Propeller Recordings
US Release Date: 2017-09-22
UK Release Date: 2017-09-22
Amazon
iTunes

Imitating Aeroplanes is a primarily electronic duo featuring Tord Øverland Knudsen of the Wombats and Marius Drogsås Hadsen of Team Me. The pair were childhood friends and had made music together before, but Planet Language is their first official album. The duo throws around terms like “anything goes” to describe their approach and “a series of red wine and prog nights” to explain their influences. That is probably true, but the resulting album is not nearly as freewheeling as those descriptions make it sound.

Planet Language does get off to a terrific start. The mostly instrumental “Roppongi Hills” begins with a lively, pseudo-Japanese melody, which is quickly doubled on piano and joined by thumping taiko-style drums on the beat. Widescreen electronic chords and snare drum rolls build the song until the final minute when a chorus of wordless voices adds to the big, big feel of the track. It’s a fun, interesting opener, and it leads into the catchy electropop masterpiece “Stomping Ground". A pinging electronic melody opens the song before bass, drums, and a fuzzed-out guitar enter and the slightly nasal vocals begin. The relatively quiet verse gives way to the huge hooks of the chorus: powerful backbeat drums punctuated by the pulsing bassline, layers of synth chords filling out the backgrounds, a blipping high register synth countermelody, and sing along vocals. “Holding on to everything we’re missing / Moving on was never easy / I’m reliving distant memories, but / Losing my foothold, leaving my stomping ground.” Even the quiet mid-song bridge where the vocals softly repeat, “Headed somewhere better” is a well-considered comedown from the chorus.

After that one-two punch, the album slows down considerably, both in tempo and song quality. “Diamond Dust” is a decent track, with a complex drum rhythm underpinning its relaxed feel. But there’s not much else going on musically or melodically to really grab the ear. At best, the harmonized layers of guitars and synths in the traditional guitar solo slot is interesting, but not enough to make up for the relatively staid verses and chorus sections. “Planet Language” begins with an intro that seems like it’s building to something, but then fizzles into another laid-back song. The song takes a break from itself and essentially stops everything for a ponderous fuzz guitar solo, but then it shifts right back into that laid-back mode. A flute-like synth solo shows up later on, but it still doesn’t make that main riff feel compelling.

It goes on like this through the entire middle of the record. Lead single “Hourglass” is probably the best track in this section, with a solid riff from a hybrid instrument called a mandolaika and a pretty good synth accompaniment. Lyrically the song is based on the Japanese myth of Urashima Taro, who slept for 300 years. This makes for an interesting story once one knows what to listen for in the lyrics, but musically the song doesn’t quite hit the energy level of the album openers. “H.I.T.S” is a pretty effective take on early ‘80s new wave, combining shimmering synths with fat low-end synth bass. It also has a good refrain that finds a melodic peak. The song even shows a bit of that prog-rock influence by fading away before returning for a coda that’s essentially unrelated to the rest of the song. The bright, uptempo “Billy Boel” is even more indebted to ‘80s synthpop than the rest of the album. This song at least has a good energy level but lacks a compelling vocal melody. Which is too bad because the synth riff is quite good. This song also finishes about a minute before it actually ends, decaying into a mess of soft synth sounds that are barely connected to the rest of the song.

These two codas really do nothing to show that Imitating Aeroplanes was taking the right lessons from progressive rock. Fortunately, the eight-minute instrumental closer “Sakebad i Kanazawa” is a different story. The first two minutes float languidly along like new age background music in some ‘70s sci-fi film. Then the drums and bass come in and for the next two minutes, the rhythm section jams out while high-pitched synths glisten through the background. At the four-minute mark, though, the song turns on a dime into a high energy, Daft Punk-style electro-disco rock song. This is high quality homage. Take the synth arpeggios from “Crescendolls”, the disco rhythm guitars from Random Access Memories, and the processed, heavy guitar breaks from Human After All, and you have an idea of what the second half of “Sakebad i Kanazawa” sounds like.

Tracks three through seven, taken on their own, would represent a listenable but largely unremarkable debut for Imitating Aeroplanes. But the beginning and end of this album are so strong that they lift up the rest of the record. During the age of streaming it’s easy enough to say “just track down those three songs and you’re all set.” But there’s enough going on in the middle of Planet Language that some listeners will undoubtedly find more to like there than I did. That makes it worth a recommendation for people to check it out and find out for themselves.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image