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Review: Plaster – Transition (2018)

I've been a longtime fan of Plaster's work: it's usually dark and brooding with a harsh industrial edge that I really like. The occasional times when light breaks into the gloom benefit from still having an edge to their treatment. Here are some examples that show what I mean: Component and Intersection from Platforms (2011).

When he announced that there would be another release in 2018, I was pretty stoked. Expectations were high, and I was not disappointed. However, I was certainly surprised. While not all previous Plaster releases that I have heard have beats, most of them do. Transition is an entirely beatless affair, and that caught me totally off guard. I like it when an artist is able to challenge my idea of what their music is like, and succeed. It also makes more use of melody than much of Plaster's previous work. It's not that melody was never used, but it was not common.

In order to give the reader a broader idea of the change this release represents, I'll give some more examples of earlier work. One previous Plaster album does have melodic elements (Zyprex 500), but it is from 2011. Here's one example from that release, which shows the usual Plaster hard-edged music, but with some melodic elements: Metrexes. It's clear from this early appearance of melody that there is clearly an understanding of how to integrate it properly. Quasar from the Monad EP (2013) consists of a load of rhythmic elements over a 2-note bassline. There are atmospherics filling in the space, but nothing that could be described as a "melody". Alight to Earth (one of my favorites) from the Nemesis EP (2013) is more sparse than Quasar, but is still largely a collection of interesting rhythms over a minimal bassline. Some tracks on Mainframe (2015) also make compelling use of melody (such as Omega), but most of them remain largely rhythmic and atmospheric; Cluster System is one example of this.

If you've taken the time to listen to the examples of previous work above, you should understand the impact Transition's differences have on Plaster's sound. Here's the first track from Transition, Casual Encounter. Compared with Component, this is not quite as noisy, and has much more melody. But it still has that extra industrial punch.

Transition is not a long collection clocking in at 35 minutes, but it is very evocative and varied. There are eight tracks; they are all three-to-five minutes long, with one exception at six minutes. As James Brown would say, they "hit it and quit it." None overstay their welcome, making a musical point and then making way for the next one. This is very lean and focused music.

The quietest track is the final one (Children on the Cliff), and it's a fitting closure to the set. It's a thoughtful and ominous mediation set in front of a wall of static that blurs in and out of the mix.

I recommend Transition to anyone looking for ambient music with an industrial sensibility behind it.

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