Plains - Into Tone
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Plains
Into Tone

Looking at the liner notes of Into Tone, one might expect that the result of six musicians getting together might be some sort of unholy racket of massive digital processing. The New Zealand collective (including 4 different people doing either computer or digital feedback, two guitars, field recordings, and bass) includes electronic musician Rosy Parlane (who has released several beautiful albums on Touch and Sigma), but instead of blasting out your ears, the release seems to be a study of sparse and even desolate sounds.

Recorded live at the Vernon Festival at the University of Auckland, the single track (which runs about 35 minutes) starts out very, very slow, with some soft crackling static before some low, deep hits drop in the mix and what sounds like the recording of a meadow filter in and out. The bass hits drop out quickly, and then the track is back on to more field recordings and warbling low-end that that eventually swarms and becomes the creepy centerpoint of the track. About halfway in, the piece is at its most dense, with multiple layers of humming and growling and clanking noises all cascading across one another. It's creepy and claustrophobic, and it pulls away soon enough to reveal radio static over some soft wire hum.

It's after this middle section that the album seems to reach a real high point in terms of how well it succeeds. With enough elements to keep things interesting, but not enough to overwhelm, the rising and falling mixture of sound lets your ear linger and focus on elements before they disappear again. Eventually, everything dissolves into a faint hum again towards the end, with only some odd squiggling alien electronic chatter to break the hum. After listening to the release several times, I have to give everyone involved credit for not forcing too much into the mix. It's the sort of track that sounds like it could have been done by one person, but it seems that everyone took their time and added their pieces instead of trying to force everything together. If you're into quiet and dark ambient like Francisco Lopez and others, this is a nice little disc to hunt down. It's not mindblowing, but it does have a quiet potency that a lot of similarly-minded releases lack.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2006-01-19 17:49:28