Music

Point Line Plane: Smoke Signals

Kevin Jagernauth

On synth and drum trio Point Line Plane's sophomore effort, they are shown up by their own album artwork and one sheet.


Point Line Plane

Smoke Signals

Label: Skin Graft
US Release Date: 2004-10-05
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

The CD booklet of Point Line Plane's second full-length, Smoke Signals, is a labyrinthine affair. Folding out to nine panels, one side is adorned with an intricate line drawing of what can only be described as a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The other side is a sort of post-modern wall of black ink punctuated in spots by Miro-esque splatters of white. Visually, the artwork suggests something dense, dark, foreboding, and unrelenting. Unfortunately, Point Line Plane can't live up to their own dramatic artwork, with an album that only shows flashes of the band's potential.

The album's opening title track begins with a minute and forty seconds of a throbbing synth line before singer Joshua Blanchard enters the song with his, um, unique singing voice. For most listeners, Blanchard's voice alone will make or break Point Line Plane. Personally, it took at least three tries before I could get used to Blanchard's voice enough to sit through the entire disc. If you can tolerate his castrated David Yow-like yowl, the rest of the opening is a fairly standard run through quasi-post-punk rhythms punctuated by Blanchard's nonsensical ("Feel so different / Feel so different / Feel the same") vocal outbursts.

The rest of the album similarly treads watery thin, synth-pumping beats. The band's own one sheet makes lofty comparisons to the Liars, Ex Models and Lightning Bolt, but that assessment is dubious at best. Point Line Plane lack the Liars' otherworldly exploration, the Ex Models' unquenchable sexual urges, and Lightning Bolt's plain balls-to-the-wall gusto. It's strange that for a band that is apparently known for their "destructively short 20-minute concert performances", their album finds them so terribly reigned in. None of that supposed manic energy seems present here.

If anything, Point Line Plane are most immediately reminiscent of Trans Am's latter period material. "1976" is a vocoder -affected track that wouldn't be out of place on TA. However, unlike the majority of that album, which reveled in its own '80s-aping irony, Point Line Plane's track is distinctly more moving. But the album's sole highlight is "The Messenger" and it is perhaps the best representation of Point Line Plane's bottom-heavy sound. The song crawls through the verse with a whiny synth-backed a helicopter like pattern of noise, before exploding into a beautiful mess of noise in the chorus led by Blanchard's howl. The latter portion of the song is a gorgeous array of starts and stops with ear splitting noise filling the silent gaps. The rest of the album would've benefited from the noisier treatment this song gets.

Ultimately "Smoke Signals" is all smoke and no fire. With a minimal synth and drum lineup, Point Line Plane don't do anything particularly exceptional or interesting with it and the album is weighted under a blanket of predictability. It's no surprise that the album shines when the band lets loose, but those moments are too few to recommend this disc.

4

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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