Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-06-05


Plug: Back on Time (Ninja Tune, 2012) After I first plucked Plug from my shelves, I assumed he was some new retro-electro guy, but actually he's minor techno legend Luke Vibert, who I've always preferred under his Wagon Christ moniker, just not so's I felt any need to testify about it. (Very) roughly speaking, say Vibert is trancey, Wagon Christ fanciful, and Plug--who in the mid '90s released the Drum'n'Bass for Papa album hard upon three EPs, all still findable as a twofer on Trent Reznor's label--a necromancer. Although the story is that Vibert stumbled upon 10 old Plug tracks and declared them an album on a whim, I'm betting they stayed in the can because they were just too all-over-the-place for 1997. But for those of us who find electronica too functional anyway, all-over-the-place equals content: the willful structures, sonic shifts, interrupted grooves, and goofy vocal bits are as eventful as a good lyric. For once drum'n'bass's impossible Conlon Nancarrow beats, which Plug does pretty well with on those EPs, are the bed where the real music crinkles, crashes, chimes, swoops, swells, squiggles, gurgles, cracks wise, and just generally hooks you. Start with "Come on My Skeleton" and "Back on Time." Then do yourself a favor and listen fore-to-aft. A-

Seefeel: Seefeel (Warp, 2011) The gears that never quite mesh in this disquieting but hardly apocalyptic industrial ambient may be metal and may be plastic but are probably both. Over steady drumming with a martial feel, they evoke two kinds of bum transmission, one automotive and the other an AM station breaking up on a late-night four-lane. Phones ring occasionally. Doors squeak. Pretty people murmur and croon. But that bird you hear chirping isn't--isn't chirping, isn't a bird. Think the part of a Tricky album that's no way funky. Stabilized by nary a foolish word, the unease is so unapocalyptic it's almost comforting. B+

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