25 years down the line, Warp records veterans Plaid create intricate textures and fluid melodies on The Digging Remedy – undoubtedly one of my favourite albums of last year.
An aspect of Plaid (aka duo Andy Turner and Ed Handley) that I have always enjoyed is their ability to conjure complex melodies like that of label associates Aphex Twin or Autechre, but in such a way that they feel more organic. For example, “Eyen” the opener of 2001’s Double Figure, creates the perfect balance between weaving guitar melodies and pristine electronics. This is something that Plaid explore further on The Digging Remedy. A classic example of this is the track “Melifer” – a personal favourite. The simple guitar and distant xylophone unwind from the get go and take the listener down an endless spiral staircase of exquisite harmony before introducing clear cut drums and synths. “CLOCK” is just as kaleidoscopic as it unfurls like “Melifer”, but instead uses bright and jittery synths rather than weaving guitar riffs.
Progression is another key factor that enhances The Digging Remedy. This is proven in the first track titled: “Do Matter”. A meditative opener that introduces a relentless bass-line and shimmering arpeggios that are gently fixed into place to help the sound grow. “Baby Step Giant Step” takes a similar approach to “Do Matter” but is far more rhythmically intricate. Like a minimalist Philip Glass composition, the track is entirely built around one loop; even the harmony which is introduced around the halfway point. Plaid are not afraid to meld the meditative (“Melifer”, “Wen” and “Do Matter”) with dance-floor ready tracks such as “Yu Mountain” – a belter that I was fortunate enough to see deployed in their live set at last year’s Glastonbury Festival.
The quality of production on The Digging Remedy is immaculate. Andy Turner and Ed Handley pay close attention to every detail whether it’s an oscillating synth bass-line or the twinkle of a harp. Even the artwork implies a magnifying glass homing in on close detail suggesting this is a key component of the album.
The perfectly constructed combination of guitar and electronica allow The Digging Remedy to be an intricate album that has an organic, somewhat earthy feel. I honestly haven’t stopped listening to it since early June of 2016.