According to some sources, the duo of Plaid have seen their three full-length albums to date as sort of a musical trilogy that began with Not For Threes and is now ending with Double Figure. What that means for the future of the group, I'm not exactly sure. I don't know if the group is going to evolve their sound into something else or drop the name altogether or what, but having heard all of the three releases, I can comfortably say that this is definitely my favorite of the bunch. In fact, it seems like with everything the group has done, they've really just gotten better over time. Not For Threes was a good starting point after a bit of a hiatus, and Rest Proof Clockwork was a lot of fun, if a bit inconsistent. Trainer proved the group had been doing interesting work all along, and the Peel Sessions release was a nice little helping of tracks in-between releases.
Which brings us to Double Figure (which is another super-long release at 19 tracks and almost 70 minutes of music), an album that simply flows so nicely and works so well for the group that I've found myself listening to it many, many times clear through without ever really feeling the need to skip a track. It has some goofy elements, but never exploits them to simply for that reason alone, and mixes organic and electronic elements in a way that they haven't done previously.
In fact, the very first track on the release is a nice marriage of the two. "Eyen" starts out with the strumming of some guitars that sounds sort of like something out of a Durutti Column song before building into a pleasant little electronic track with echoes of the guitars that weave their way through the mix. Towards the end of the track, things get kicked up even one notch higher, as some of the nicer tones take on a slightly harder edge and the track pulses to a conclusion. Things just continue at that great pace, too. "Assault On Precint Zero" is full of bubbles and squelches, but never goes over-the-top and is probably one of the slickest little tracks that the group has done.
Of course, that is until you get to "New Family" or any number of other well-constructed tracks. "Ooh Be Do" finds the group toying with a touch of glitch, while "Light Rain" is a nice little downtempo slab with an almost hip-hop beat while "Zala" splits the seams with the most rumbling, funky track on the entire album. With stabs of thick synths and a kinetic, almost drum and bass beat, it's a lot of fun. One of the most haunting and strangely pretty tracks on the album ("Sincetta") mixes some spoken word samples that are processed until they sound like they're underwater with a quiet little twinkling melody. The group even somehow manages to fit in short tracks of a minute or so long (sort of like the "Bolts" on the old Black Dog album Spanners) without making them feel out of place, instead providing small, logical segways (and in some cases leave you wanting more).
If I have one complaint with the album, it's that sometimes the release flows together slightly too well. This is definitely the most well conceived release as a whole by the group, but because there are less random wacky tracks, you may find that the album has progressed several tracks before you even know that it's changed one. Still, that's a mild complaint, though, and one that doesn't really detract at all from the release. Double Figure finds the duo on top of their game as Plaid and even if you haven't felt the need to check the group out yet, this would be your perfect introduction. Solid craft, a lot of fun, and one of the best electronic releases of the year thusfar.