Voices of Black - Plastic Dolls

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  • Plastic Dolls is that rare thing: an electronic concept album. Via other genres we've skirted the outer fringes of sanity (Dark Side of the Moon), been probed on Parliament's Mothership and, with Mastodon, done everything from hunting Moby Dick to chasing Rasputin's soul through a wormhole. Now, over typically tasteful Wolf + Lamb beats, we can experience a day in the life of a fashion model. The idea for Voices of Black's label debut was sparked as they watched the E! channel on mute, fixated on Brazilian model Ana Beatriz Barros. Babatunde Doherty and Julian Randolph decided to "make some songs that sound like what she looks like," fleshing out the concept with reference to the "models, the runway and the fraud" of the "nauseating" scene in New York, where they lived. Plastic Dolls allows us to eavesdrop on an exclusive world, recreated with samples of camera clicks, crowd noise and interviews with pretty vacant models, stitched together over snippets of starry-eyed disco and deep house. We follow the eponymous dolls as they drift through pounding catwalk shows ("Sohos"), buzzing A-list parties ("Loft Rooftop") and the ride back out of the City ("I-95," which could equally refer to Baba and Jules' own retreat to Rhode Island). Just like an E! cameraman, the producers go where the action is, spending a few minutes here, a few there, to catch all the drama. Voices of Black are at their most artful when teasing apart the cracks in fashion's facade: out-of-sync samples on "Klossy" reflect the lost focus of wasted youth; the chopped Sade vocals of "Shade" recall the faded glamour of a bygone era; "Brown Eyed Girl," with its reassurances that "your daddy loves his girl," reinforces the stereotype of a young woman seeking a substitute for her father's affections. But far from revealing what it refers to as the industry's "double face, where it's glitzy and glamorous but also really cold and hollow," the duo displays no more emotional depth than Zoolander. Their finger frames rarely linger on a subject for more than a minute or two, and themes aren't woven into a clear narrative. In successfully mimicking the fickleness and superficiality of its subject, Plastic Dolls fails as both a concept album and an album, period. Remix packages will allow other Wolf + Lamb artists to turn their stablemates' sketches into fully-realised tracks, complete with trajectory and purpose, but this is something Voices of Black should be doing themselves. Apparently they only worked on Plastic Dolls when Ana Beatriz Barros was visible on TV; if they continue with self-imposed restrictions like this, they risk remaining as jejune as their muse.
  • Tracklist
      01. Fraudulent Scene Intro 02. Sohos 03. Disco Jackie 04. Le Fuzze 05. Klossy 06. Drinks on me 07. Waiting Outside 08. Loft Rooftop 09. Downtown Rain 10. Models in Elevators 11. I Tried to love 12. Ride 13. Shade 14. I-95 (Escaping the Fraud) 15. Brown Eyed Girl 16. All Must Conclude (Paris) 17. Greenleaf in the Heart (Beatriz Edit)