ompiling an album is an anachronistic art that faces certain doom. Let’s face it, most of us download to the computer, shuffle or playlist it and port it to an mp3 player. Apparently most people get their music from ringtones, downloads, file-sharing, and game soundtracks these days too.
Sequencing a record seems like a throwback to the days when you’d lovingly turn an LP over at the end of each side. It’s mostly an afterthought anyway these days, but without it, this album from Melbourne teenager Francis Plagne (pronounced “Plahn”) would be drastically different. It’d probably still exist, but only just.
Idle Bones, you see, is all about context and the neighbourhood of sounds. The sharp tinkle of bells, a Theremin wobble, the dissonant shock of an alarm ring or burst of noise, and piano keys juxtaposed with the superficially easy relief of a 60s melody and Plagne’s softly psychedelic voice.
At times it feels like a teenage party of music geeks. You know the kind—fighting over the stereo, bits of equipment everywhere, everyone trying to out do each other: dope, Grateful Dead, Stooges, Nirvana, Brian Wilson, beer. Someone’s trying to get a jam going, but another guy wants to play his new song. Only this party sees that list of artists stretched out to include Xenakis, Zorn, and Anthony Pateras. Someone’s started recording it all, right down to the water running from a tap by the barbecue.
Idle Bones was actually recorded in Plagne’s home studio, an 8-track with only seven working channels. But if you think the secondhand sonic aesthetic (right down to the hand rummaging around in a box of tools on “A Twitch of Denial”) is a result of musical immaturity, think again. Tense, fraught moments of dark ambience are quickly replaced with wonderfully accessible melodic material that somehow frees the listener. It is uplifting, but it also underlines the manic quality of the preceding sounds.
It could be jarring, but it isn’t, and the reason is tightly bound to the tension between and within tracks. Difficult sections are eventually followed by more accessible melodic material, validated by the part they play in these tension and release relationships. It’s not a smooth ride and it is definitely not a mature album. Plagne’s reaching for something, and if there’s a next one, it is sure to be even better.