In the milieu of ’90s British IDM, Plaid was sort of a peculiar example. They do not have the LSD soaked psychedelic weirdness or nosiness of Aphex Twin, nor the jazzy drum and bass underpinnings of Squarepusher, nor the stark abstraction of Autechre. What they do have is a preternatural sense of melody and capacity for writing memorable songs. At times, Plaid’s music almost feels more akin to post-rock bands from the U.S. like Tortoise or Pele than their Warp label mates of the ’90s. There is lovely warmth that runs through their music that is almost the inversion of Autechre’s unsettling coldness. Although Plaid do on occasion sample traditional instruments, it is never clear exactly when they are doing so. The listener can easily imagine a live band reinterpreting these songs on traditional instruments, something that is hard to imagine with most of their electronic peers. The Plaid sound is well established and they do not seem very interested in reinventing the wheel, and why should they be?
On their new record The Digging Remedy Plaid provide us with one of the most satisfying examples of the Plaid sound yet recorded. Although Plaid have never dropped the ball or wandered off into ill-advised self-indulgence, they have not sounded this strong or consistent since 1999’s stunning classic Rest Proof Clockwork. These songs are catchy. The kind of catchy that makes ass wiggling and repetitive head bobbing down-right mandatory. Listeners should prepare themselves for goofy Charlie Brown-esc grins that might make you look a little bit demented on public transportation or at the gym, so be careful where you choose to listen to The Digging Remedy.
On tracks like “Melifer”, Plaid have all of their strongest traits on display: hooks that will not leave your brain for days, beats that grove and bump like the finest hip-hop, and a sense of timing and songcraft that knows just what to do and when. “Melifer” is fairly short, barely four minutes long, so don’t be surprised if you feel the need to listen to this one over and over. The Digging Remedy’s 12 tracks zip by without any filler to be found, downright begging repeated listens.
It has always seemed to me that Plaid must have an abiding love for dub music and possibly other Caribbean genres like calypso. The fingerprints of dub can be felt throughout The Digging Remedy, and I do notmean dubstep, I mean Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry-ish abstractions that sound like they were beamed down from space. The tinkling and pleasant bonking audible on many of Plaid’s records, including the The Digging Remedy, often remind the listener or steel drums. All of this contributes to the signature Plaid sound, which is always warm, joyful, and spacious.
Those of you hoping for a curve ball of some kind from Plaid might be disappointed with the The Digging Remedy. This record sounds exactly like what it is: a Plaid record. Most listeners, however, will be delighted by every moment of The Digging Remedy. It is a summertime record if ever there was one, filled with sunshine and nostalgia. It just goes to show that there will always be room in the world for more hook infested, balmy electronic music that makes you grin like an idiot.