Friday, June 5, 2009
3:03 - Plastik Joy
SCQ Rating: 81%
There’s nothing remotely transparent about Plastik Joy. From first reading their name – which anticipates a hardcore techno group - on n5MD’s mailing-list to hearing their first song ‘Sleepy Quest for Coffee’, I’ve found it difficult to classify 3:03. Perhaps it’s because their debut is occupied by several vocalists and displays a criss-cross of subgenres from electronica’s past decade. Maybe my inability to sort out Plastik Joy arises from the fact that this duo, comprised of Fannar Asgrimsson and Cristiano Nicolini, live and collaborate from different countries. This long-distance partnership, between their respective homelands of Iceland and Italy, has instilled 3:03 with a perfect blend of smooth electronics and folk sensibilities, yet to leave its ambition at that would be a criminal understatement.
Take, for instance, their opener; as shut-in and domestic as its title reads, ‘Sleepy Quest for Coffee’ plays out like a late-night stroll, as if instead of soundtracking a walk to the kitchen, it should be backing an empty grocery store parking lot, peppered by springtime rain. These nocturnal reflections encompass much of the record but each remain fresh under stylistic guises, like how ‘Hands’ utilizes chillout-style female vocals and Alva Noto-inspired cut-ups before introducing live percussion, or how a piano and toybox melody interact with rain-clattered laptop beats and an unfurling wash of noise on ’63 (She was Trying to Sleep, I was Trying to Breathe)’. Convergences of ideas and styles spike with the half-sung, half spoken-word ‘Medispiace’, which abruptly jumps into an electric guitar attack, but iron out with the one-two sequencing of ‘Twenty-Ninth of April’ and ‘Barcelona – Reykjavik’; both emitting an unexpected dose of soft Mogwai-esque post-rock. Although describing the range of these compositions inevitably sounds scattershot and incompatible, 3:03 manages its overflow of ideas by balancing grander pursuits with their dependable folk-glitch instrumentals.
As 3:03 apparently earned its title from the coincidental time most recording sessions came to a close, there are moments where the record risks delving too deeply into shadows (‘Asynchrony of Lives’, ‘True Norwegian Black Metal’) but even then, Nicolini and Asgrimsson are feeding their nightly muse with careful footsteps. The joy of discovering Plastik Joy isn’t catching glimpses of Dntel, Four Tet, Victor Bermon or Finally We Are No One-era Mum, but appreciating how distinctively these audio-engineering graduates have grappled their influences into something at once far-reaching and comforting. Here I’ve name-dropped several successful electronic acts and yet none of them diminish Plastik Joy’s authorship; their traces are felt as spirits only, providing momentary chills throughout this late-night score. One of this year’s more promising debuts.