Picture From The Blackout

Plastic Animals

Song, By Toad Records, 2016


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Picture From The Blackout is quite a crude album. This debut release by Edinburgh’s Plastic Animals certainly leaves a lot to be desired, starting with singer Mario Cruzado’s vocals. For a band whose style is defined by atmospheric guitar noises, the vocals grossly lack the fluidity of the music, and sound quite jarring at times, disrupting the ambience that the music is trying to create. A lot of this has got to do with the overall production of this album, which is pretty inadequate – it might be enough to attain a low bar for sonic complexity set by a garage rock band, but it’s not sufficient for the deep musical ambitiousness sought by Plastic Animals.

However, despite the apparent no-so-glorious aspects of this record, Plastic Animals has their heart in the right place, and this is evident on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Blackout. Without any refined production tricks to manipulate the music, the songs here sincerely reflect what this band is about, which is noise – beautiful and crushing noise. A great example of this is the 6:40 minutes long “Colophone,” which is simply an instrumental jam that goes on and on in its own little guitar-noise trance, until the vocals shyly kick in a mere two minutes before the end of the song. The band doesn’t worry too much about song structures; all they care about is having fun with building noisy soundscapes.

Most of the album has a similar feel to “Colophone,” where structure or musical composition doesn’t dictate the course of a song as much as the flow of the guitars (and the cacophony they create) does. This is where Blackout genuinely shines, as Plastic Animals seem to have understood how to make atmospheric music with sludgy guitar effects really well, and they execute this with style. A more refined studio job on this album would have been great, but this doesn’t prevent the band from revealing confidently what they do best.

In some ways, this album sounds like it is by a band that is not quite mature, as the production quality is no different from the two mini-albums (2011’s A Dark Spring and 2012’s Automation) that the band has released prior to this full-length. Compared to the preceding discs, Blackout seems like just another evolutionary step by Plastic Animals as they try to find their true sound, not quite having reached it. They are, however, closer than ever to achieving it, as evidenced by the noisier versions of “Yellowcraig” and “Ghosts” on this album, which are much better and much more interesting in comparison to the mellower versions of these tracks found on Automation.

Plastic Animals has found the soul of their music with this album; once they find the right caliber of sophistication in their production values, they will be a truly solid act.

Rating: B-

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© 2016 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Song, By Toad Records, and is used for informational purposes only.