Black Colours (Accession Records)
By: DJ Cyberchrist
I hadn't heard of PLASTIC before. I just received their album in amongst other promotional material from Accession-Records.de, and I bunged it on, and thought bugger me! Why hadn't I heard of this band before?, Where did they come from? Where could I get some more? Because from the opening atmospheric introduction to the ending outro, this album had me more excited than I have been in a long while. Let me tell you why.
There is a heck of a lot of crap released in the EBM/Industrial music genre. When I say a lot, I mean probably 75/80%. That means that out of Ten releases you might try 2 or 3 if you're lucky might be any good. Now let us define 'Good', because a good album in the EBM/Industrial genre may be an album with one or two stand out tracks on. A really good album might have four or five good tracks on but it is maybe 1 out of 50 that you can play right the way through without a dud track.
It sounds awful, but that is the sad truth. It is extremely rare these days to come across a totally accomplished album all the way through, it just don't happen much.
Now for me, I can live with that. I will buy an album for one song, because I'm a DJ and it's important to get that one good song 'out there' on the dancefloors, but I think it's a real shame for the record buying public who spend their hard earned cash on an album only to find that there's only one or two decent songs, and the rest are poor, it's up to the record companies to push their artists for better production and more complete albums, rather than one single they can lift off it and release.
So that's why when an album of the calibre of PLASTIC - BLACK COLOURS comes along, you wanna tell the whole world about it. And that's what I intend to do.
The thing is there's been a flux of really good release over the last couple of months, :SITD: - Stronghold, Pain Bastard - Skin On Fire, Pride and Fall - Nephesh, but the top release in my books this month has to be PLASTIC - BLACK COLOURS let me tell you why.
Whatever happened to atmospheric instrumental intros to EBM albums? The old guard - Leatherstrip, Mentallo & the Fixer, Psychopomps - now those boys knew how to do a good atmospheric intro. It sets the tone for the album and transports you subconsciously into another world, a cyber-industrial world full of weird voices and haunting sounds, chains and machinery, and claustrophobic, apocalyptic noise.
Dawn is such a song, it leads us in with its gasping breathing, its haunting voice and heavy hearted suffocating atmosphere... It leads us up, out into the light, helping us out of the darkness into...
02. SENSE OF LIFE
When I first listened to this I thought it was going to be the best track on the album. Because it is a good track. Very accomplished, too accomplished for a new band, I was thinking (but actually this is PLASTIC's second album). The production quality is very high, as is the composition and song structure, it's a very good dance-orientated EBM track. Normally this alone would be enough for me to buy an album, but then I flicked on to..
Now we're talking. And now we're in the realms of Assemblage 23 and VNV at their very finest. I do not say that lightly. Too often these names are bantered around to get you to buy a release, but I'm deadly serious, PLASTIC really are as good if not dare I say it... better.
The similarities with Assemblage 23 are startling even down to the vocal treatment especially on this track and track 8 Home. But "LIES" has everything you would want from an Assemblage 23 track, great vocals (and lyrics), well composed song structure and an upbeat trance soundtrack.. And of course it's impossibly catchy.
I've found myself singing it in the queue at the Supermarket.
04. WILL YOU CARE
The slow, broken love song. So often the death of any EBM band. So few have got it right, Tom Shear seems to have got the formula right, and so god dammit! Have PLASTIC. I'd have this CD on when I'd be in the shower and even though the lyrics are a little tacky, I found myself singing them at the top of my lungs. the sign of a great song. The simple piano-line, the emotive strings, the broken-hearted voice, a powerful combination.
More simplistic, not as infectious, Visions is one of the weaker tracks, but that's only because it's in good company. The lyrics let it down. The programming is more sparse and the production feels less accomplished than the other tracks on the album, feels like it needs a bit of fine-tuning to bring it up to scratch.
06. SECTOR BLUE
The opening vocal line, hidden in great swathes of Reverb, sounds almost Nephilim- like I expect to see Carl Mccoy coming out of the mist towards me, very ethereal and then the bass drum kicks in.. A lovely rolling feel to this song, just grows and grows but doesn't really go anywhere, not that that is a bad thing, but it could have been much more.
07. BLACK COLOURS
VNV watch out! PLASTIC are here, with a VNV track. Yes the sound is VNV, the beat is VNV, the tempo is VNV, the voice is A23 but you can't have everything can you? Oh yes you can. A great mid-paced, infectious dance pop tune, for the fans of light and fluffy EBM, this my dears, is for you... Poptastic!
Now here I have to rein PLASTIC back in, because if I was Tom Shear I'd be pretty pissed off with this song. It's got A23 stamped all over it. The worst rip off though is the vocal line. The melody is identical to the way Tom Shear sings as is the treatment of the vocals, I had to take a look in the cover to see if it was Tom, guesting.. it wasn't. That aside, it's a cracking song, it's what A23's last album should have been, it's in ya face pure dance EBM. If Plastic want to take his crown, then this is the way to do it, it's more infectious than ebola, more dance-inducing than Abba at a wedding, more uplifting than a shot of adrenaline. Cracking good stuff.
Reminds me of a depeche mode instrumental this one.. something to do with the bass sound, like Violator era DM, builds into a wonderfully Epic Sci-Fi soundscape. Stick it on your headphones, lie back, relax and drift off - Float into EBM space station PLASTIC 09.
10. CLOSED EYES
A splash of COVENANT vocals, a touch of VNV sounds, a smattering of A23 sequencing.. And it's a recipe for another good song. It's EBM by numbers, only PLASTIC seem to be far greater than the sum of their influences, and if I were any of the big three, I'd be afraid.. very afraid.
An instrumental outro that completes the album perfectly. Coming back like a distant memory, the haunting voice and sonorous strings of the opener Dawn, come back to haunt us.
So there you have it, a track by track guide to the best album of the year to date, in my humble opinion. PLASTIC are a band to keep an eye on. I only hope that they develop their own identity some more, so they don't have to rely on sounding like other bands. But lets not put a dampener on what is a fantastic album, PLASTIC should be applauded for a really top class release.. We look forward to the next instalment.
File under Album of the month/Must buy now.