Ed Handly and Andy Turner met up way back in 1998 and started creating music under the name of Plaid. Although their first release flew under the radar of just about everyone, they worked on undaunted over the course of the past 10 years and not only teamed up with another member to form Black Dog Communications, but also collaborated with others and finally started releasing albums under their original name again back in 1997 with Not For Threes. While that album put them on the musical map again (getting a fairly high-profile release on the venerable Warp), they followed it up with the excellent Restproof Clockwork and gave everyone a glimse of some oddities with their Peel Sessions disc.
Now, they're back again and although Trainer doesn't contain any new material, it's going to be a first time listen for most people out there. Not only is most of the material very hard to find, but the duo has included a heaping helping of their work, spanning two discs and about 150 minutes. The title is also fitting, as all the tracks on the release were created and released in 1995 or before, creating sort of a primer (or 'trainer' rather) to the sounds of Plaid.
The oldest music on the release actually dates clear back to 1989, and although it does sound a bit dated, it's nothing like the commercial pap that was flowing out of the radios at the time. Sure, it has a big beat and some sampled scratching, but it's playful and slightly goofy Plaid feel to it. Of course, that 5 and a half minute of old school action isn't even the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you get on the release. From there, the group busts into several more tracks that show quite a range of sounds (this time circa 1991 and 1992), including the salsa beats fo "Scoobs In Columbia," the ambient sounds of "Chirpy" and "Blah," and the post electro (is that even such a thing?) of "Perplex."
Even then, that's just a small sampling of the first disc of the release and from there the tracks definitely start working better. Although their composition is strong and there are some interesting things to be heard on the first disc, it's the second batch of tracks from 1992 and on (clear up to 1995) that shows the duo progressing their skills in a much bigger way. Overall, the 2CD set is an amazing document of the group and their sounds, but the 150 minutes of music contained within is almost overwhelming and too little of the music sticks after you've heard it once. There's no doubt that they've gotten better with time, but despite the title, this probably isn't the best place to start out listening to Plaid unless you revel in the sounds of old school techno. Fans who don't have the earlier releases will want to snag it up right away, though, and hear them from the beginning.