Wednesday 3 February 2016

Plastic Animals - Pictures from the Blackout

Article by Del Chaney

Having had some previous experience with Edinburgh-based atmospheric post-gazers Plastic Animals before over on my other love Primal Radio, I was eagerly anticipating this full-length release entitled 'Pictures from the Blackout' from the band. With referenced influences such as Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Deerhunter, Radiohead, Grandaddy, My Bloody Valentine and Broadcast coursing through their veins, this impressive five-piece could do no wrong in my eyes. The band spent two years perfecting this debut album release and it really does show throughout. This is an intense collection of really impressionistic soundscapes that are laced, at times, with full-on atmospheric shoegaze and krautrock infusions, heavy sludgy walls of guitars and haunting vocal progressions. The album gets its official release on the 8th February via the equally brilliant Song, By Toad Records.

It opens with the brilliant 'Ghosts', a melodic ball of fuzzy goodness with charging drum progressions, swirling explosive guitars and that highly addictive vocal line! Up next we're introduced to the epic droning, almost psych-rock induced opening bars of track two, ‘Colophone’. This repetitive behemoth thunders on a wave of fuzzy, layered, reverberating guitars, pounding drums and a cacophony of brilliant sonic noise. Musically reminiscent of Fuzz Club Records' own Throw Down Bones with its modern repetitive psych-rock tones, 'Colophone' is probably my favourite track on this entire release. Bloody brilliant. Track three 'Sigh-Fi' slows down proceedings considerably. Its humble beginnings consist of a lazy drum beat, trembling guitar line, throbbing bass pattern and a vocal line that swims forever in a sea of reverb. We're treated to that traditional, impressive post-rock lift for the chorus parts until the track explodes into a world of intense reverb intertwined with that floating Pink Floyd-esque lead guitar break. This is without doubt a sonic journey of discovery and lends itself well to the band's philosophy of mixing their music to a visual aspect. Their live shows must be a truly epic audio and visual affair.

'Yellowcraig' is simply divine. I've played this track previously on radio shows that I've presented on various online radio stations and it never fails to catch me off guard. This is a slice of modern day psych-gaze in my eyes. It's sublimely dark and edgy with a menacing, droning undercurrent that caresses that strangely addictive vocal line. You really need to pop headphones on to experience it in all of its sonic glory. Up next the refreshing 'Portal' builds and builds right from the off. Again, this track is full of fuzz but the haunting vocal keeps it interesting until the chorus explodes and proceeds to swirl and loop throughout with duel lead guitar lines, throbbing bass and a safe earth-tying drum pattern. There is a slight hint of alt-rock underpinning the opening bars of track six 'Die Ann'. Yes, the atmospheric elements are still there, albeit toned down, but we're introduced to a more refined side to the band. 'Die Ann' is a lazy, plodding musical affair with impressive reverb-drenched vocal lines. That shouldn't be construed as being a bad thing though, I love the way the band can change it up when required. Up next, track seven entitled 'Demmin' is immense and it has the ability to take the listener on a journey. On my very first listen to it I pictured myself sitting on a high speed train, looking out of the same window but watching the scene outside change as every single second charged by. This track has the ability to create dreams. It changes with every single bar, carries you along with it and explodes into a shimmering wall of sonic noise until its finality! A true masterpiece.
The album's penultimate track 'Burial Party' is again full of brilliantly fuzzy guitars, a steady drum beat and that wavy reverb-drenched vocal line that we've become so accustomed to throughout this debut release from Edinburgh-based Plastic Animals. The album's closing piece 'Holy Daze' lazily shuffles into the sonic ether. A strikingly menacing opening guitar line straddles a simple drum beat as dark synth swells introduces us to and carries the opening vocal line with aplomb. The beat increases and the chorus explodes as we soar into the reverb-drenched sky accompanied by the haunting but repeating vocal line "holy daze" echoing in our ears and all gripping intently on a wave of melodic noise. I'll be very surprised if this debut album from Plastic Animals doesn't finish up on many an end of year, best of lists. It is simply that immense. Full of everything that you'd expect from a band who took two years to painstakingly perfect each individual track. If you get the chance to see them live please do, as I'd say it will be life-changing.

Plastic Animals' website

Buy: 'Pictures from the Blackout'

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