Isan – Plans Drawn In Pencil (Morr/Inertia)


In a style not radically different from its past releases, Isan sprinkles fairy dust all over Plans Drawn in Pencil and the mood is as becalmed and the sound as ultra-detailed as one might expect. Antony Ryan and Robin Saville’ vignettes teem with sing-song melodies, gently clicking beats that scurry like mice, and warm synth tones that glow like fireflies. In keeping with the album title, the duo’ sound exudes a light touch, not to mention a retiring character and sonic quality sometimes reminiscent of Eno (the elegiac synths in “Corundum” wouldn’ sound out of place on Another Green World). Ambient jewels like “Immoral Architecture” glisten, while the pitter-patter of an old drum machine chugs alongside soft keyboard sparkle in “Ship.” In another group’ hands, “Roadrunner” might violently roar at breakneck pace; Isan’ treatment, not surprisingly, unhurriedly murmurs. The group deviates subtly from the template on a couple of tracks, adding a funk rhythm to “Amber Button” (what seems a radical gesture in this ultra-controlled context) and a more robust keyboard presence in “five To Four, ten To Eleven.” Ultimately, critics who dismiss Isan’ sound as twee and overly pretty will (dis)like this album as much as any other in the group’ discography, while those who deem Isan’ material too static will find ample evidence of that quality too. Those more receptive to the group’ understated charms, on the other hand, will find the finely-crafted new work on a par with its previously-issued material.

Ron Schepper


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