Music

Plaid's 'Polymer' Is a Wonderfully Elusive, Unpredictable Album That Constantly Surprises

Photo: Timothy Saccenti / Warp Records

By successfully tying the tracks to culturally relevant, apposite themes, Plaid's Polymer is one of their most strikingly accomplished albums to date.

Polymer
Plaid

Warp

7 June 2019

British duo Plaid have long been one of the most innovative and forward-thinking names in electronic music. Pick any album from their long career, and you're met with intricate rhythms, glitchy IDM beats, and wonderfully cerebral diversions that seemed to toy with the very notion of space, depth and time.

New album Polymer is no different but, conversely, also a very different beast from anything they have done before. The characteristics mentioned above are still, thankfully, present and correct, but there is an edge to the album that takes the music in bold, previously unexplored new directions. Inspired by modern themes of environment, synthetics, mortality, and human connection every light, playful element is counterbalanced by something altogether darker - like black, rain clouds slowly enveloping a clear blue sky.

Opener "Meds Fade" kicks things off in thrilling fashion. Fuelled by a stomping beat, the duo fill the spaces with threatening, buzzing synths and sighed vocal loops. It's a thumping, dancefloor-ready opener albeit one bathed in ever lengthening shadows. The fidgety, "Los" maintains the attack with razor sharp synths that slice and tear through the mix, as the pair encourage electronic chaos to reign.

"Maru" is a masterclass in layering percussion as looped, clattering beats clash with a driving, subterranean beat all held together by twinkling melodies that hold the listener under its hypnotic spell. Throughout, notes and sounds fly in and out of the mix, leaving a wispy imprint like vaper trails in a clear blue sky. On "Ops", the steady inhalation of a female vocal sample weaves between clattering, bouncing beats before the track takes on a classic drum n bass feel. The pair sound like they are in their absolute element as they let keyboard melodies and drum patterns run riot.

The more experimental "Drowned Sea" takes the listener on a gripping sonic voyage as swelling, ambient synths cushion mechanical, percussive sounds. "The Pale Moth" melds organic instrumentation and synthetic textures beautifully. As acoustic guitar and horns tangle themselves around ambient keys and jittery IDM beats, the track morphs until it resembles the sound of a detuned, and slightly chilling, turn of the century fairground ride.

The blissful, "Dancers", gently reveals itself as cool, oscillating synths revolve around a soft beat. Like an electrical cable with its wires exposed, atmospheric noises and sounds spark and crackle before walls of cascading synths arc between the speakers. "Nurula" takes things back to the dance floor as the pair weave in a rich tapestry of synths, acoustic guitar notes, and a strong, thumping beat. It's a stunningly effective example of sonic plate spinning from artists with a vivid and distinctive vision.

"Recall" serves almost as "Nurula's" more downbeat counterpoint. As dark, menacing synths clash with industrial percussion, the track slowly recoils to reveal a barren, sonic terrain underneath. "All to Get Her" and the slow-burning "Dust" meld the dark, more volatile sides of the album with lighter, unexpected flourishes. On "Dust", for example, the rippling chords and metallic percussion rub up against a waltzing synth melody.

"Crown Shy" takes a jittery IDM beat and adds glitchy electronics and, strange as it may seem, a beautifully judged accordion figure that gradually takes center stage. Closer "Praze" finds the duo scaffolding the track from what sounds like harpsichord notes. It's a brilliantly original way to finish an album that continually reinvents itself over multiple listens.

Polymer is a wonderfully elusive, unpredictable album that constantly surprises. It's undoubtedly a Plaid record with knotty rhythmic detours and tricky beats that will delight fans both old and new. However, by successfully tying the tracks to culturally relevant, apposite themes, it's also one of their most strikingly accomplished albums to date.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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