Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Doors by Plum Flower Embroidery

The newest offering from PFE sees a return to the experimental and somewhat dark mood of his earlier music. Doors presents a rather eerie, atmospheric trip providing the listener with an ever present sense of claustrophobia. It seems to offer the contradictions between the ambient and gentle and the dark and foreboding that PFE does so well. Once again, PFE brings forward a CD that is not for the folks that prefer music of the more accessible and 'quick-fix' kind. It demands the listener to actually pay attention, listen (preferably with headphones) and give it the full attention it deserves to be able to appreciate the fine nuances and atmosphere.

Doors starts off spooky enough with the title track Doors. As soon as you press play and start to hear the track you will get an idea of what the CD will offer – a dark, eerie trip ahead! I particularly like the percussion and vocals on Doors which add a haunting element and an unexpected groove. Bookseller follows and lightens the load left by Doors. There is a wonderful blues piano groove going on with some great guitars and vocals and is possibly my favourite track on the CD (although Fathom and Saving the Preacher also provide stiff competition for this title).

Fluorescent Cannibals holds up really well and is a track that improves with more listening! Another bluesy track, although more of an 'experimental' blues I would suggest. It reminds me a little of Serious Zero, one of PFE's earlier tracks, they are obviously very different from each other but there is something about the delivery of the vocals that is reminiscent of Serious Zero (which is a great track by the way).

After the comparatively 'jaunty tracks' we return back to the dark eerie undercurrent withEels Egg! A very ambient, trippy, dark 'Eno-esque' number with a wonderful layering of percussion, keyboards and vocal elements along with the odd 'star wars gun sound' laser thing here and there (I'm not very good with recognising instruments as you may have noticed!). If Darth Vader hasn't got you yet...he soon will.

Fell Foot Wood continues the dark and eerie trip. There are backwards vocals here which are always guaranteed to sound threatening and scary and with the added loops and effects it feels like I have now entered a scary dark wood, always looking behind for the owner of the voices! A kind of musical Blair Witch Project encounter!

There is a brief respite from the trippy, claustrophobia when we come to Fathom. A great vocal track that I have always loved, and one that, surprisingly, fits well with the darker tracks on Doors. I think the haunting guitar effect ensures it blends well with the other tracks offering the contrast of light and dark PFE often brings to his music. Listening to it follow on from Eels and Fell Foot seems to be a perfect place for Fathom to rest.

Saving the Preacher is a great ambient track that, once again, has that distinctly Plum sound. What is it that makes the tracks sound distinctly Plum? The use of the piano here is just lovely and reminds me of an old style piano offering a musical box sound. Personally I love the blend of old (piano) with the newer electronic sounds. I do like that in music. The use of electric and acoustic in a creative way. The Preacher is just a lovely ambient track where the piano just eases along beautifully.

He Did Again flows on nicely after Saving the Preacher bringing another eerie experimental track. Experimental, that is the word for this CD. It is a very experimental CD and I like that a lot. It fits perfectly into the experimental genre and in listening to He Did Again I am left thinking that if this was performed by a 'well-known' artists (Eno or such like) people would be praising it to the rafters.

V99 once again brings in the haunting piano sound and blends it with more 'futuristic' sounds akin to the Preacher track. And that is something PFE does so well, almost unknowingly. Blending light with dark, old style with new and is something that is wonderfully demonstrated with V99.

Book 13 brings about a melodic end. It does initially stand out amongst the others and at first listen seems to stand out as very different from the rest of the CD. It is lighter and brighter than the rest. However on second listen I do like the way it seems to say 'this is me, still here at the end of all the darkness'. Once again light and shade.

So, after all my spiel, Doors holds up wonderfully well. All the tracks seem to flow and blend together. It is quite an eerie, haunting piece of work that blends old with new and yes, does have, I feel, an Eno feel to it. I only wish I knew someone in 'power' who would listen to PFE once in a while and say 'Wow we love it' and offer the guy loads of money for the extensive library he has produced over the years.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Quantumn Soul Machine by Plum Flower Embroidery (2003)

* Please note!!*

This review is no longer accurate. Plum Flower Embroidery likes to change CD running orders and tracks now and again, without prior notice and sometimes at whim. He likes to keep us on our toes. As a result the tracks on QSM have been changed.

The vocal tracks of Cannibal God, Author of Parasitism and Monkey Brand now no longer live on this CD and a few other tracks have been added thus making QSM a purely instrumental CD.

A new review to reflect the changes shall be forthcoming in the New Year, that is unless Mr Plum decides to change the playlist again.


Quantumn Soul Machine takes us into the realms of the dream world. Dark, ethereal sounds of fantasy and sci fi resound throughout the CD which is a collection of both instrumental and vocal tracks.

The second offering from PFE, recorded in 2003, sees a continuation of the industrial sounds that Inhale brought and once again illustrates the stark imagery PFE music can produce. Like its' predecessor, QSM demands much from the listener and is not for those that prefer easily accessible, commercial, fast fashion music. It demands, and deserves, many listens to enable one to fully appreciate and grasp what is being achieved here. However, this is where the similarity between the CD's two end. Unlike the preceding CD, which brought simplicity, vulnerability and certain a unfinished quality, QSM introduces us to the depth and complexity of PFE and one which, at times, creates a claustrophobic and extremely dark atmosphere. We are presented with both instrumental haunting tracks and vocal pieces that somehow create an atmosphere and sense of the hereafter.

Recorded by PFE after a 7 year hiatus since Inhale, QSM introduces us to the full range of instruments, effects and vocal parts that illustrates his unique and often dark side. The overall feel of the CD brings with it a disquieting and unnerving atmosphere that retains a dark, industrial feel which is introduced immediately with the instrumental title track and continues throughout.

Stand out tracks include PlayStick World, an instrumental piece that has a Kubrick, Bladerunner-esque feel and a piece that would certainly be a worthy soundtrack of such a dark sci fi. Stick World is a simple, yet extremely effective track. Using both electronic and acoustic methods PFE the manages to combine the sounds of the microKORG with that of bent acoustic guitar. What results is a track that conjures up images taking us through the industrial landscape of a future that could be.

PlayLy is another instrumental track where we are treated to 4 minutes of music which may unnerve those of a more sensitive nature. Using the KORG to full effects and combining these with an hypnotic, percussive beat, PFE creates a world of darkness and disquiet. The distorted operatic sample merely adds to this as we are treated to what I can only describe as something akin to the sounds of opera singers on drugs.

As well as the haunting instrumental tracks, QSM brings us vocal tracks that continue to take us along a dark, ethereal and often confusing path.PlayAuthor of Parasitism does indeed fit the title as PFE urges the 'author' to ‘leave that poor woman alone’ whilst there is a general feeling that this author will do no such thing. PlayMonkey Brand is, essentially, or so I am informed, a tale of addiction. Acoustic guitar, percussion and KORG effects all blend together in a slightly unbalanced manner, whilst the vocals provide, once again, a haunting feel that presents the listener with a glimpse into the PFE world.

PlayCannibal God is, for me, THE track of QSM. If there is one track I would advise you to listen to it would be this. All the ingredients we have heard so far on the CD blend together to form this exceptional track. A word of warning, as with much of PFE’s work, it is not a commercial, easy to listen to, smash you and grab you catchy lyrics track! Cannibal God was inspired by the 1978 horror film ‘Slave of the Cannibal God’ with Ursula Andress being the object of desire here (and why not?). The track has layer upon layer of vocals and effects that provide a fitting tribute to Ursula, her lack of clothing in the named film, and the desire of the Cannibal God!

Overall, QSM is not easy listening nor is it meant to be. The atmosphere it creates is disquieting, unnerving and edgy. There is a sense of something akin to being on the edge of madness, waiting fall in. The whole feel is dark and disturbing. Where Inhale can be described as a 'sunny afternoon', QSM is more like a dark, gothic, storm ridden night.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Inhale by Plum Flower Embroidery

Plum Flower Embroidery is the music of dreams, creativity and imagination and, as such, demands that from it’s listeners. Inhale is no exception and is a good example of how his music demands to be heard and seen, yes, ’seen’, rather than just listened to.

Inhale is not for those who like ’quick fixes’ for their music, nor for a world that demands instant gratification. It doesn’t grab you immediately with a catchy chorus nor does it belt out simplistic riffs and words that are easy to sing a long to. What it does do is create a landscape that develops over time. It paints a picture using sounds, a picture we create in our minds from the sounds PFE has created in his.

Inhale was recorded in 1996, over several sunny afternoons, in a big empty room with wooden floors and sunny south facing windows. This merely serves to add to the inspiration, simplicity and atmosphere that the CD offers. The whole CD was created using a Roland JV35 synthesizer and a Roland 505 rhythm machine and as such offers a consistent sound throughout.

In creating the CD, PFE says “ I just noodled with patterns and improvisations until I got something pleasing and then recorded it to cassette.” However, much more thought has gone into the ‘noodling’ than is given given credence by PFE. There is a delicacy, simplicity and consistency that shines through as well as the unique and individual sounds he has managed to create through the use of such universal instruments.

Anyone can pick up these instruments to develop and create music but the unique ‘patterns and improvisations’ here rest solely with PFE’s imagination. A subtle tweaking of the sounds that the JV35 creates, from normal to ‘wrong’, brings us slap bang into the middle of the PFE sounds cape and, rather than using the programmes the 505 rhythm machine has, PFE triggered the changes manually instead of using the set programming. He also improvised much of the work and recorded direct to a cassette as he was playing.

In essence ‘Inhale’ is a performance that can never be repeated again. It is a performer, sat in a large bare room, developing, improvising and recording with a limited amount of time. There is no practice before hand and the results are just ‘as is’. As a consequence we are faced with a CD that is authentic and spontaneous in its’ performance and recording process, with a simplicity and unfinished quality that adds to the appeal.

As we inhale at the beginning, we immediately catch sight of the imagination and freshness when we are invited into the sunny afternoon with Welcome To The Room. A short introduction offering a bright, yet un-nerving hello. A simple track that brings a brightness and joviality with PFE using the effects of the JV35 and his ‘noodling’ using an ever so slightly off centre bird song that seems to contrast with the clanging bells of doom which offer a glimpse of the more disquieting things to come. A track enticing us to come in if we dare.

As we dare to move along, the CD brings with it an instrumental consistency through out, synthesizer and drum machine combined together and used to full effect. Early on in the CD Inhale demonstrates the importance of the track titles as they enable the listener to create his or her own imagery whilst listening. Using the instruments to full effect, Inhale seems to mimic a rhythmic breathing, in, out, in, out, almost creating the image of time moving forward, slowly ebbing away. It offers a repetitive rhythm that, once again, appears slightly off centre, changes key but still maintains a disturbing rhythm. French Atmospheres provides an atmospheric and claustrophobic mood as once again we witness a rhythm that somehow remains consistent yet ever changing. A contradiction, maybe, but it’s hard to describe in words but that kind of sums up PFE, especially in the instrumental tracks.

The tracks move though in a simplistic, electronic and improvisational manner, moving towards Giant Ants, a beautiful example of what I feel sums up the whole CD. An ambient, dream-like piece which is probably the closest PFE comes to a waltz. The track maintains a gentle rhythm though out whilst we are treated to the Giant Ants moving along through the use of gentle keyboard and rhythm effects bringing with it an almost fairground/carousel feel.

Overall, Inhale is not for those that like their music polished and commercial. It offers a pure instrumental CD that provides a coherent, consistent and sometimes retro feel whilst maintaining the unique perspective of PFE.