Plastic Animals: Pictures from the Blackout
Complex but rewarding atmospheric rock
Translation is a slow and torturous process. Given a raw text, it takes painstaking concentration to go through line by line, word by word, and decipher the patterns and systems holding it altogether. There's often no single point at which a gloss suddenly becomes a translation, no visible click of puzzle pieces fitting together to reveal a whole; rather a sense of increasing understanding about the invisible logic beyond the marks and curves on the paper in front of you.
Listening to Plastic Animals' debut Pictures from the Blackout reminds me of that feeling. Two years in the making, it's had about as long in gestation as any record should have. At times it remains impenetrable as if these songs were transcribed from an alien original, rather than written down, and the band have spent their time deciphering raw matter into musical notes and lyrics.
Plastic Animals' particular dialect of atmospheric indie rock suits the considerable length of some of the tracks on Pictures. Mario Cruzado's vocals fade in and out in concert with waves of distortion and feedback, while guitarist Ben Slade's melodies often seem present only to provide navigation points in the layered soundscapes that underpin each song. It's in some of the longest and most impenetrable tracks that you'll find this album's stand-out songs, though, and on ‘Colophone’ and ‘Demmin’, clocking in at almost seven and six minutes long respectively, that they really begin to delve deep between the lines.
It's not all hard work, though, with album opener ‘Ghosts’ acting as an accessible rubric, whilst lead single ‘Burial Party’ even has a danceable (well, the sort of dancing people do at shoegaze gigs, which is really just non-plussed swaying) guitar riff bolted on. Good things come to those who wait, though, and Pictures from the Blackout is certainly a record that will reward the patient listener.
Out now, on Song, by Toad.