Plaid - The Digging Remedy

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  • It's startling to realize that Ed Handley and Andy Turner have been making electronic music consistently for 27 years—first as members of The Black Dog and then, since '91, as Plaid. And all of that experience adds up to a distinct fluidity in their music. Smooth transitions and bright melodies have always been hallmarks of Plaid's music, and The Digging Remedy is no exception—essentially, this is the same accomplished electronica we've come to expect from the two Englishmen. Handley and Turner have been mining the same futuristic aesthetic for more than 20 years—after that long it starts to feel quaint. To their credit, they refresh it enough to feel contemporary. Sleek polish and careful sound design help the music stand up against their peers from the younger generation, such as producers like Konx-Om-Pax or Boxcutter. But The Digging Remedy's tried-and-true approach can feel somewhat lacking. What starts with a John Carpenter-esque direction on opener "Do Matter" blossoms briefly with the multirhythms of "Dilatone" and into a sparkling patina of melodic elements on "CLOCK." But by the fourth track, the album slips away into background listening. This is partly due to how many tracks have similar pacing and energy, creating an intentional smoothness that winds up cloying. As a whole, the music is warm and pleasant, even occasionally gorgeous, but it feels a bit bloodless. The effect is compounded by the addition of somewhat smug-sounding (and dare I say it, middle-aged) worldbeat flute and guitar from multi-instrumentalist Benet Walsh, especially on closing tracks "Held" and "Wen." Perhaps the biggest problem, then, is the absolute ease in which Handley and Turner handle themselves. If any part of the production process—whether in practice or emotion—felt tricky or rough, you wouldn't be able to tell. The moments of small disruption that draw you out of The Digging Remedy's electronica stupor—like the staccato intro to "CLOCK" or the way "Saladore" edges towards the dance floor—are reminders of why Plaid are important. But it's not enough to dislodge a sense of complacency that feels out of step with their reputation as innovators.
  • Tracklist
      01. Do Matter 02. Dilatone 03. Clock 04. The Bee 05. Melifer 06. Baby Step Giant Step 07. Yu Mountain 08. Lambswood 09. Saladore 10. Reeling Spiders 11. Held 12. Wen