Music Reviews

James Plotkin/ Mark Spybey

Peripheral Blur


Check out the two mad-eyed gentlemen in the corner over there: Mark Spybey (toy sounds, vocals) and James Plotkin (guitars, generators). Could be anyone at first, looks are unassuming, but then the history comes rolling in: Download, Zoviet France, Dead Voices on Air, Old Lady Drivers, Flux, Scorn. But it’s nothing like this, nothing like what’s in here. “Peripheral Blur” is one of the more challenging collaborations of the year and its on the most consistently surprising label. Kranky is the last place I would have searched for Plotkin and/or Spybey, but it makes sense. After stellar releases by Stars of the Lid, Jessica Bailiff, and Godspeed You Black Emperor, Kranky is as good of a spiritual home as any for our two protagonists.

“Peripheral Blur,” the end product, is the most truth-in-album title work since Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore.” This is discreet music in every sense of the word. Like two lovers reducing the world to a low melodious hum as they stare into one another’s eyes. Chance meetings. Long-drawn out pauses.

Opening track “ Jute Wheel” is the saddest piece of music I have heard all year (I swear that’s a laurel). Beginning with a simple synth pattern that repeats and repeats and builds upon itself, machinelike drones and revolutions chime in and disappear – the beauty is in the totality. This one song pretty much blows away all of Brian Eno’s ambient output. “Aluminum As A Medium” is a phase-shifting and chameleonic piece of mystic musik that demands headphones and complete attention. The song “Peripheral Blur” is just that, a sequence of sounds just outside your field of sound and vision. Album closer “Northern Sleight” sounds like one of those tiny Godzilla toys that walks by itself and spits fire being dropped into the infinite vacuum of outer space.

The most impressive thing about this album is how seamlessly/soundlessly Spybey and Plotkin blend their audio works. Before hearing this album I was afraid that it would sound like DVoA and Flux playing in two rooms separated by a very thin wall. Their ego-less collabaration is even further to their credit.

Fuck Bacharach and Costello, this is the collaboration you need in your hit parade jukebox. Kranky Records, P.O. Box 578743, Chicago, IL 60657

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