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Album Review

A curious but rewarding album, Flux isn't quite James Plotkin's art pop effort, but it's hard to think of it in any other light. With production shared between Plotkin and friend/regular collaborator Mick Harris of Scorn/Lull fame, Flux features Plotkin's angular guitar work and experimental rhythms in combination with spoken/sung vocals from Ruth Collins. The opening song, "Patterns of Traffic," calls to mind early Siouxsie and the Banshees with an emphasis on recitation instead of singing, which more or less sets the pattern for the remainder of the album. Consisting of eight generally lengthy numbers, Protoplasmic isn't easy listening enough to simply be a pop effort straight out, but neither is it simple Plotkin's usual brand of mysterious atmospherics. One or two songs aside, the musical emphasis throughout is on tight, minimal rhythm loops and guitar figures, the latter high-pitched and spindly, which at points get treated with an extra layer of reverb or light additional arrangements. Further U.K. post-punk connections can easily be drawn from there — Wire, the Durutti Column, Dif Juz, Cocteau Twins, and more are all called to mind, even the extreme noisefests of Throbbing Gristle toward the end. While some of the songs seem to abrade more than outright connect, others have an exultant, soaring air — check the quick, jerky rhythms and soft backgrounds of "Hollow Spaces" for a good example. Collins' own vocal work prioritizes the spoken word over the sung — the latter is saved for the most part for background atmospherics that increase the lushness of many songs. Her direct lines capture the flow of the songs just enough — since the compositions are essentially repeating themselves, her words serve as a contrast to them, a reasonable balance. Plotkin's own vocal contributions get electronically treated for an intriguing robot overlay to the proceedings on tracks like "Light Fuse."

Protoplasmic, Flux
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