Friday 26 November 2021

Plaindrifter - Echo Therapy (2021)

Country: Germany
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 24 Oct 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Every time I listen through this album—and I've done that rather a lot while nursing a sick ferret—I'm surprised all over again when the vocals show up. This feels like the sort of psychedelic rock album that's entirely instrumental, the musicians—and I'm not surprised there are only three of them—losing themselves in the sonic journeys. I imagined them live on stage with eyes closed as they improvise a new destination and craft the way there by manipulating the air. It seems odd to me that one of them found enough presence in the now to open his eyes and actually step up to a microphone.

But there are vocals on M.N.S.N., which opens up the album. They don't show up until halfway and they're quickly gone again until late on, but they're there. They're there early on New World too, for a brief moment, and halfway through Proto Surfer Boy, and so on, but I'm surprised every time one of these pieces of music finds voice. I think it's because I'm not thinking of them as vocals, in a sense of a means to bring me words and meaning that I should pay attention to. I'm treating this voice as if it was another instrument, even though it it's an entirely clean and even soft voice and it takes its time. I'm thinking of it as a guitar or a keyboard, a new layer to the music, emphasising a mood or a soundscape.

And I like that music. This is rock rather than metal, but it isn't afraid to get heavy in the old ways, without having to downtune too far and add crunch. It's also surprisingly easy to listen to, not that stoner rock is a challenge but because this is smooth stuff. I don't have to join their journey under my own steam; I can just lie back on the raft that is Plaindrifter as it, well, drifts on down a cosmic river to reach whatever weird and wonderful place it has in mind for us. It's effortless, especially a song called Proto Surfer Boy, with its almost organic intro. Maybe this song is a fantastic voyage instead of a cosmic trip, aiming inwards rather than outwards.

If Proto Surfer Boy is my favourite track here, I think my least favourite is Prisma, a twelve minute epic that may well work for some people, because it's easy to get lost in it, but doesn't for me. I'm finding that it's the one that vanishes into the background for me and lets me drift away from the album. It's not a bad song; it's just one that needs a bit more focus. Of course, I'm listening to it in my office, which is not the optimal environment for an album like this. I should be in bed with the lights out, listening on headphones at three in the morning. My counter to that is that my office is no problem for the other four tracks here.

Certainly, Digital Dreamcatcher, somewhat appropriately given its title, pulls me right back in. It surely has more ambition than anything else on offer here, which I appreciate, finding a prog vibe during the second half, with a guitar/drum conversation that's groovy and fascinating. It certainly has the most overt vocals of any song on the album—whichever of the three band members sings does so as a lead voice on this one rather than a supporting one. And that must make it my second favourite here, a great way to wrap up the album, underlining that Plaindrifter know exactly what they're doing in this genre but are willing to mix it up at points. It's a perfect way to make me wait for a second album.

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