The Four Walls
Plug Research

can I be honest? I think we understand ourselves. I believe we’ve come to a shared stance. We’re audiophiles, and we all have our systems. We break our music down into classifiable parts. Yes, it’s simply discerning listenership, a systemic means of understanding where we stand, and whether our albums are taller than we are. A quick run through might be appropriate:

-Audio-Intensive Group
Allowed a full head’s worth of attention and little intrusion. Set for lazy Sundays with a gas-blue gleam in the air and nothing much to do.

-Busywork Group
Should occupy your thoughts without fingering your gagwork-reflex. Slightly less prominent than the former group, but still asking for more than half your attention. Ideal for tax-preparation.

-Workout Group
Adrenaline-spiked and heated for jogs and feverish crunches.

-Serious-Task Group
The second-cousin to busywork. Designed to intrude only in splices and sparks as you labor away at jobs of import. Perfect for studying, perhaps.

Of course, with this system comes an inherent application of value. Those that quench the needs of the first are much more demanding, and thus important, than those that slip into the last. Sadly, in listening to Languis’ fifth album, and first for Plug Research, The Four Walls, I can’t help but feel that it would stream to the bottom like Angel fish droppings.

I’ve listened to The Four Walls more than twenty times since receiving it several months ago, and if I met it for a drink, we’d still be at the where-do-you-work-again stage. It’s not that I haven’t heard it out; I just can’t recall anything it’s said. The syntax is right, and the responses make sense for the questions. Languis continues their move away from post-rock to a more IDM-dominated range (I’m fond of splitting hairs). The shift is gradual and seamless. Punchy electronic beats poke and prod their way through laidback guitar lines and synths glowing shades of Shel Silverstein. An increased vocal presence reclines in their aerial electronic lounge with the detached sang froid of the dead. Small symphonies are beamed from faux ivory keys, and the tranquility that results is a mild balm for spring’s stinging rain. Subtly, Languis are moving towards space-aged pop music. I can understand all of this, and at the moment of play it seems to make sense, but when I wake up the next day, I find the answers sift through my fingers and leave me feeling the stranger again. You could hatchet up its sequencing and reassemble it; I would be none the wiser. For me, that speaks to its vague voicelessness. Nothing catches hold, and at album’s end, I begin to wonder if I have been listening. Need I?

With the ever-mounting pile of eighties-worship forcing the synthesizers to the front of the stage and the tinny Casio-beats tingling the soles of Puma kids, you have to draw the line somewhere. Otherwise, where do our systems lead us, friends? We’ll all be bottom-heavy and bankrupt. The Four Walls speaks in faceless clichés, the kind of rotund wordiness that bares itself in how little you gain. So, you ask, what’s below serious-task? Languis seem to insist used-bin.

Reviewed by: Derek Miller
Reviewed on: 2004-06-07
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