It’s been an incredible 8 years since the last “real” Plaid album. In the meantime of course they’ve scored movies (including the legendary anime Tekkon Kinkreet), collaborated with video artist Bob Jaroc, and released a remix album.
But Scintilli is the first “pure” expression in many years of the much-loved musical partnership of Ed Handley and Andy Turner. And while it may be that absence makes the heart grow fonder, this is vintage Plaid, and a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. It opens with a beatless track that could be a slower, slightly less heart-rending cousin of “Chesh” from their last album with The Black Dog, 1995’s Spanners. But lest we think we’re in for a new ambient soundtracky Plaid, we fall straight into fizzing bass and slowed-down groove, like Sabres of Paradise for a post-dubstep world.
It’s like Plaid are saying “Yes, our melodies are unparalleled in the IDM world, but we can still do dirty techno y’know!” Indeed, Plaid are often imitated, but it’s their melodic sense and unusual harmonies which set them apart (Holland’s Kettel can get close on occasion). The third track reminds us of another Plaid hallmark: lopsided but eminently danceable time signatures.
Later on, “sömnl” draws again on dubstep’s wobbling, modulated basslines, but in a techy Plaid fashion. Other tracks feature angelic vocodered vocals, complex rhythms and even ravey acid squelches, while “35 summers” drips, scintillates and sighs like the best of their soundtrack work.
This impeccably and painstakingly constructed album ends with a plaintive refrain on piano, and we can only echo the track’s title: “at last”, another album from Plaid. And for all its comfy familiarity, it’s not just a backwards-looking nostalgia trip. Rest Proof Clockwork may be their iconic work, but I have a feeling this too will be one we keep returning to.