12 3″CD-R, Death Paradise, 2007
During the Chinese year of the dog, Italian experimentalists Plastic Violence released twelve monthly mini-CD singles with canine-themed covers. Fast-forward to the year of the pig and the label behind the artists, Death Paradise, has made the whole series available as a set. The tracks are an interesting bunch, generally pretty lo-fi, and Plastic Violence aren’t afraid to add noise to the mix even when working in an otherwise melodious and dreamy mode (“Is there anything worse of life?”). They’re equally at home with the coldly minimalist (“DSM-IV”) and the quirkily expressionist (“Mr. Tambourine Soldier,” “La Poupée; Mécanique”).
Plastic Violence seems most comfortable, however, working with faintly old-school machine rhythms and disconcerting music-box melodies that vaguely evoke industrial pioneers like Zos Kia, early Psychic TV, SPK and Throbbing Gristle. Structurally there’s a hint of post-Autechre electronica and even techno influences (“Instant DJ”), but there’s little VST wizardry here – at least not so you’d notice it – with the exception of the glitchy beats of “Warped” (heh…) and the drones of “Breathless.” Many of the sounds in their usual palette could be coming from simple oscillators and an overdriven mixing desk. Israeli experimentalists Seventeen Migs of Spring would be a good contemporary comparison.
The standout track is the cover of “Love Buzz” by Dutch hippies Shocking Blue (via Nirvana), complete with hypnotic bassline, motoric percussion and layers of electronic noise that hold up a funhouse mirror to late-60s psychedelia. The vocals are excellent and I can’t help wishing they’d had the inclination to do more songs like this one. The only other vocal track is the Beefheart cover, “Party of Special Things to Do,” which doesn’t shine in quite the same way, but has its own uniquely twisted groove. This unexpected eclecticism, reminiscent of Nurse With Wound, is worth cultivating.
There’s some really good stuff here but the sheer volume of material in the full set (nearly three hours) is off-putting. Plastic Violence would have been much better off selecting the standout tracks for a best-of-breed album, but as it is the pedigrees get somewhat lost in the pack.
— Andrew Clegg