New Plastic Ideas – week of April 26 2012

This week in “they’re still a band?”: What is the Meaning of What is the first album from Turing Machine in eight years and is also some of the last music drummer Jerry Fuchs (also of !!! The Juan MacLean and nearly every DFA band from the past decade) recorded before passing away in 2009. My initial recollection of the instrumental trio was that of a group playing something between late- ’90s math- and post-rock but there’s comparatively little of either to be found here. This sometimes works in the trio’s favour as self-consciously angular moments like “Slave to the Algorithm“ sound like tepid leftovers from a Battles jam session or something. Fuchs’ propulsive motorik/disco drum stylings are all over What making it an immediate listen but I’m still slightly baffled by this record — one minute it’s a lot of fun the next it’s embarrassing and then out of nowhere Disappears vocalist Brian Case starts going Mark E. Smith over electro-beats and psychedelic post-punk guitar swells and everyone’s neurotically grooving like it’s either a hockey game or 2002.

For the more headphone-inclined R.I.P. the newest from Actress is worth checking out. That the British microhouse/IDM artist’s newest was issued on 4/20 is slightly telling — dance-heads might have to “settle down” to fully get the bizarro-ambient appeal of this. The use of silence on “Ascending” and “Marble Plexus” is particularly striking essentially forming beats out of clipped absence. R.I.P . is a varied and consistently engaging collection of ear candy though it does falter a bit towards the end with more obvious dance gestures.

I don’t have much to say critically re: Jack White ’s debut solo LP Blunderbuss . If you like the guy you’ll more or less dig it just for being a Jack White album. Several of the “frontman goes solo after band breaks up” caveats apply here (e.g. stylistically varied in a competent and safe “something for everyone” manner tracks that likely would have gone on the band’s next album if they hadn’t broken up) but hey if releasing songs gives the guy more cash to act on his whims for putting out live LPs from the likes of Neil Hamburger and Ted Leo on Third Man Records I’m cool with it.

Lastly guitarist James Blackshaw ’s newest Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is a pleasant collection of acoustic tracks that could unintentionally pass for town music in any number of medieval computer games. One thing I keep noticing more than the music itself however is Blackshaw’s breath. I don’t know how the album was mic’d but his inhale/exhale cycle is right there constantly reminding you: yes I am right here. It’s an inviting listen at first but I’m finding it numb and tiring — by the time the piano and vocal takeover of the third track comes up it’s tough to bother going further.