or the past year I’ve been finding myself turning back to Plaid whenever anything or everything else (musical) fails me. I can be exhausted (like I am now – too much football, too much drink, too much work, not enough sleep, end-of-term-blues), or bored, excited, distracted, angry or in any other state of mind, and from no matter where I start Plaid, and to a lesser extent Black Dog (they tend to freak me out, in a good way), will both energise and soothe me. It’s a hell of a trick to pull and yet Ed and Andy do it time and again; maybe only Eno, The Necks, and Miles Davis’ quieter moments have quite the same affect, bring me down, stretch me out, ease me into comfort again. I’ve suffered on and off with a bad back for years – so as much as I might want to hit the town dancing as often as I can, I value comfort like you can’t understand sometimes. I bathe in Plaid’s music like water, somewhere outside of waking and sleeping, some Platonic dancefloor where no one ever need chill out because the grooves are relaxing as well as impulsive. It’s not quite synaesthesia; I don’t see colours or smell odours when I listen, but I wish I could. I guess I’m just weak for half-heard melodies and cheesey synth presets.
The album I reach for most is their second under the name Plaid, Rest Proof Clockwork, possibly just because the cover’s so grand, some mechanical-monkey-hi-fi put together using bits of cardboard, old elastic bands and pulleys made out of smiling solar bodies. I’m easily pleased. Moments jump out at me from Rest Proof ad elsewhere; “Shackbu”’s extended ambient hip hop, the jaunting blip and bounce of “Dang Spot”, the steel drum-stereoscoping of “Air Locked”, “Ralome”’s gorgeous synthetic pastures, the piano jive on “New Bass Hippo”, “Diddymousedid” from the P-Brane EP; but the opening four songs of Double Figure is beyond compare. From the lightly pealing guitars and spacey whistle of “Eyen” to the pattering chimes of “Zamami”, Plaid dropped twenty minutes of perfect music. The remainder of Double Figure is good, great even in places, but those opening four songs… wow…
“Squance” is the undisputed peak of those 20 minutes for me. It’s the first song I rated ***** on my iPod. It’s still the most-played, and it’s also probably the song I most love to hear on headphones; making haste to get the train on the way home from work it does all kinds of weird things to my brain. Maybe only Mouse On Mars’ “Bib” and Orbital’s “The Girl With The Sun In Her head” have similar affects.
It’s the way those weebles warble instantly from ear-to-ear, fuzzing your balance out of step slightly, the way the pleasantly onomatopoeic title foreshadows the whole play of the rhythm track; 38 seconds in, when the already rubber drum jerk suddenly finds a whole universe more bounce, I can’t help but twitch in time, even if it’s only to (try and) fall into step with it as I walk. Fuck it; I’ll be honest; if no one’s there to see I dance. On the path. Next to the field. With cows watching me as their four stomachs ruminate cud. They wish they had headphones too. Dum-dum-dig, dugga-dugga-dum.
The chorus line, if that’s what you could call it, is played on a synth setting that sounds like an alien’s trumpet, while something else in the background sounds like a load of Martians shouting “hey!” from Mars’ best rave as the alien DJ drops a great dub bass line into his extra terrestrial set. It slips out of alignment and leaves the dum-dum-dig, dugga-dugga-dum there alone, holding the fort, and then slips back in again, absolutely daft with euphoria. Dum-dum-dig, dugga-dugga-dum.
Fuzz me, baby.