Artist and songwriter Plike returns this year with something totally unexpected and creatively thoughtful throughout. Inspired by the infamous oddity that is Netflix’ Stranger Things, this project has been described as an ominous, profoundly cinematic exploration of some of the darkest moments in human history. Listen freely regardless, but perhaps also try to consider the story behind each track, the unethical and frankly terrifying experiments that have taken place throughout human history, and the fear and insanity that brought them into existence.
Holmesburg sets things in motion, a mellow, industrial-style beat drives from the distance, as equally far-away vocal snippets fade in and out of the mix. The craftsmanship is where the strength lies, this is a piece of audio to be experienced – the movement of it carries you along, the brief ideas presented by the vocals provoke deep thought, and all in all you get that authentic, alternative trip-hop edge that is all too absent from mainstream music of late.
The Monster Study follows the opener and brings in a high ended glockenspiel sound (or something of the like), alongside of which a haunting backdrop begins to emerge – complete with the terrifying vocal manipulation of a late night horror film. The title and the mood of the music walk hand in hand through your consciousness. There’s delicacy and terror, softness and intensity, all intertwined within the walls of a beautifully entrancing piece of music. As things progress, certain riffs become the crucial threads of familiarity – the vocal notes, the glock riff, the sudden appearance of technology, of an alternative voice – of history itself and further ideas being carefully placed within the process. You quickly realise with this release that Plike, or Mad Madam Em as she is otherwise known, has excelled herself on the creative production front. This is a totally immersive, subtle yet certainly cinematic collection.
Subproject 68 takes things in yet another unpredictably captivating direction. The military march, the aggressive shout of a leader not to be toyed with – the soundscape seems to gather up these building blocks and wrap them in the softness of a leading voice and a concept that again surrounds you, absorbing your current moment and redirecting your thought pattern – or, re-programming your brain, as the song so subtly suggests.
Keeping those recognisable threads alive, Bluebird is a track that suits the EP well but falls far from the usual mood of a song with such a joyful title. There’s a lightness here, for sure, the track is less haunting, but it still digs at your fears regardless – particularly considering the abhorrent history behind it. The beat is brilliant, the contrast utilised throughout is mighty, making for what is actually an easy highlight of the whole project. The soundscape builds and evolves in a beautiful way, surrounding you with atmospheric elements but always keeping that rhythm, that movement and sense of progression, alive and well.
The final track of the new EP is Laboratory 12, a collaborative piece featuring the production skills of Digibilly. There’s an immediate presentation of the new perspective, but there are also still quite clearly those Plike points of interest that keep the song relevant. It’s a hypnotic bit of down-tempo EDM that works well as the closing moment, opening the door to a totally new way of thinking or reflecting on what has come to pass. There are a few touches of colour and changing energy as the track progresses, the wall of audio falls away, the bassier aspects show their true nature, the beat shines brightly. Later on, the EDM vibrancy explodes into its own realm of power, letting all anxieties fall away as the movement and the music sweep you off your feet.
At only five tracks deep you wish for a little more, but at the same time – a lot seems to take place within the time frame. An easy go to and a totally professional and freely creative project, refreshing to listen to and a strong reminder of the ongoing creative growth and considerate audio craft-work of Plike – not to mention an unsettling journey down some of history’s darkest pathways.