A “Few” Personal Plaid (Related) Favourites

This piece started out as prep for the recently published interview with Plaid’s Andy Turner… just me running through my record collection, pulling out favourites, putting things in chronological order, and trying to think of some decent questions to ask……

Black Dog  – Vir2l – 1992

Black Dog Vir2l 2

The Black Dog released their first single, Virtual, in 1989, on their own label, Black Dog Productions. In 1991 they signed to small indie General Production Recordings, and in `92 issued this set of remixes. I was in FatCat when the 12 came in. The excitement plainly palpable as copies flew out from behind the counter. I had no idea who The Black Dog were, but everyone was buying one, so, why not? In the same session, someone put on Carl Craig’s Nitwit, and the shop erupted. With a b-boy break sped up, and eq-ed into a racing rattle, and drums that sound as if they’re being sucked backwards, synths are sent spinning, spiraling, and then countered by kinda jazzy chords. The original Virtual must surely have been an influence on folks such as Future Sound Of London. 

Balil – Nort Route – 1992

Balil - Nort Route

Balil is an alias of Plaid’s Ed Handley. Ed licensed Nort Route to Kirk Degiorgio’s label, A.R.T.  – Applied Rhythmic Technology. My copy, however, is on Belgian imprint, R&S. Carl Craig also issued the E.P. on his Planet E. I picked the 12 up after Andrew Weatherall charted it – probably in The NME. The rhythm, while snapping metallic, has something super tribal about it, and the haunting pan-pipe-like robotic rainforest whistle is something, 30 years later, that I still can’t get out of my head. 

Plaid – Scoobs In Columbia – 1992

Plaid - Scoobs In Columbia

A piece of proper party-starting, joyful jazz juice. It would be hard to describe this as “techno”, instead it to plays to Andy and Ed’s hip hop roots. A cracking collage of frantically cut-up latin breaks, Fania fanfares, boogaloo brass and chants. A rolling piano just about holds it together, as it tumbles, gathering momentum, threatening to derail and explode.

Urban Jungle – Bad Man (Black Dog Remix) – 1992

Urban Jungle Bad Man 2

I like the original, produced by Tony “Moody Boyz” Thorpe – though it was probably a bit of a Dee Patten / Who’s The Badman cash-in. The Black Dog remix, however, is righteous digi-dub that rockets along. Its travels terrorized by a possessed crazy carnival timbale. I honestly don’t understand why this 12 isn’t more sought after. I`d also love to hear the Plaid chaps do more dub stuff. 

Black Dog – Cost II – 1993

Black Dog - Cost II

Sounding like European trance that’s taken its cues from Detroit techno, and in particular UR’s Red Planet, and then been stuttered and gated into an absolute epic. Toying with time signatures, destroying the dance-floor tyranny of the 4 / 4, this is a stone-cold classic that’ll have an army of old ravers all emotional. 

Black Dog – The Crete That Made Crete – 1993

Black Dog - The Crete That Made Crete

A track from the album, The Temple Of Transparent Balls, its title a dig at the label, GPR, who The Black Dog were about to leave for Warp. Wonderful, and wonky, The Crete That Made Crete is built around what sounds like a wheezy pump organ waltz. Humorous, light hearted, and yet totally hypnotic, it’s a damn fine example of the more organic side of Plaid / The Black Dog. 

Black Dog Productions – Otaku – 1993

Black Dog Productions - Otaku

Released on Casper Pound’s Rising High Records, this is techno reduced to a syncopated shuffle. Jazz, the teacher. Future fusion, the shape and form. The debris of yesterday’s genres dancing, delicately, like energetic, charged molecules bouncing off one another in Brownian motion. The circuitry singing sweetly in crystalline chimes to cool computerized contrabass chords. 

Reload – Le Soleil Et La Mer (Black Dog Remix) – 1993

Reload - Le Soleil Et La Mer

A single shared from Reload’s album, A Collection Of Short Stories, Black Dog’s remix begins with circling code, a mechanical chattering like alien birds. The rhythms rushing, clattering, colliding, apparently at random, creating a jewel, seemingly, of sublime sonic serendipity. Synths switch between emotional swells, and sharp icy emissions. Elements of the original are sent spinning in dizzying spirals. It also features the same sort of otherworldly Wurlitzer sound as that used in Larry Heard’s dynamite The Dance Of Planet X. At one point Heard was lined up to remix The Black Dog. Now wouldn’t that be something. 

Bjork – Come To Me (Black Dog Remix) – 1993

Bjork - Come To Me

Beautiful Bjork’s beautiful Come To Me, from her LP, Debut, bitten by The Black Dog. I didn’t quite know what to make of this when I first bought the 10”, since it was super stripped back compared to other Black Dog stuff. The techno trappings aren’t just tamed. They’re pretty much gone. Swapped, instead for Talvin Singh’s tabla and serrated. cinematic, Bollywood strings. The track more Massive Attack than melodic raver. It didn’t take much time, however, for me to  appreciate its seductive simplicity.

UNKLE – Sassafrass (Plaid Mix) – 1994

UNKLE - Sassafrass

From a Major Force remix double pack, that put Plaid alongside ground-breaking beatmakers, Howie B and Portishead, Sassafras shakes to the sound of heavy head-nodding hip hop drums. The crashing snares, though, completely surrounded  by fancy, fragile, dulcet detail. Loosing the original’s Sun Ra sample, but keeping good old LSD-soaked Timothy Leary, and adding some scratching. DJ Scooby (Andy), I`m assuming, on the cut. Plaid were actually part of an early UNKLE line-up. 

This was at the start of James Lavelle’s influential Mo’Wax imprint championing “techno”, and commissioning “electronica” remixes and releases. See also Raxmus, from The Black Dog’s first Warp LP, Spanners. In my opinion Lavelle helped “techno” to cross over to a new audience, when he charted tracks like this in ID Magazine – although I distinctly remember being in the Ambient Soho record store, on London’s Berwick Street, when folks at the counter were complaining about Lavelle “gate-crashing” the genre, James having just shelled out a grand for some old head’s entire collection.

Tura – Reishi – 1995

Tura - Reishi

One four artists featured on the Likethemes E.P., Tura is Plaid’s Andy Turner. The others being Stasis, Redcell, and Nuron. All of them titans of UK techno. Reishi is an introspective take on electro. A tribute, perhaps, to Tommy Boy Records,  and `80s outfits like the Jonzun Crew. Laced with laser blasts, it’s a Pacman jam tailored to mid-90s chill-out rooms, that also manages to sneak in an homage to Kraftwerk’s Tour De France heavy breathing. Reishi was a favourite of Ibiza’s “King Of The Sunset” Jose Padilla, who included it in one of his BBC Radio 1 Essential Mixes. 

Nicolette – No Government – 1995

Nicolette - No Government

Nicolette collaborated with Shut Up & Dance and then Massive Attack before teaming up with Plaid to produce this track for Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud. Like the Bjork remix, this is pretty restrained for Andy and Ed, despite the twisted tones that make like medieval Middle Eastern reeds. Congas combine with a tribal kick, marching military snares, and acidic arpeggios. There’s a house record hiding in there somewhere.

Black Dog – Shadehead – 1995 / 98

Black Dog - Shadehead

The Black Dog’s Peel Session wasn’t released until 1998, but it dates from 3 years prior, around the same time as Spanners. The opener, Shadehead, is the standout for me. A shimmering soundscape, set to a gentle break, that, warm and reassuring, wraps itself around you. Offering a calming musical caress for a fevered, or perhaps “altered”,  brow. A vibrato voice shaking ethereal in its ether.

Plaid – Ralome – 1999

Plaid - Ralome

Promo`d from the LP, Rust Proof Clockwork, Ralome “rides” a rippling rhythm, swinging and full of space. A guitar-driven composition, this is the closest Plaid have come to kosmische, and it could possibly pass for Manuel Gottsching’s, late `70s / early `80s Virgin Records-era, incarnation of Ashra. 

Plaid – Cost III – 2000

Plaid - Cost III

Talking of “clockwork” Cost III comes on like a whispering whirring of countless cogs, flickering, clicking, creating counterpoint, but all interlocking toward a common purpose. 

Plaid – Safety In Solitude – 2006

Plaid - Safety In Solitude

Taiyō Matsumoto’s Tekkonkinkreet was the first manga that I ever read – the story of street urchins, brothers Black & White, fighting with yakuza for the future of Treasure Town. In 2006 Michael Arias adapted the books into an anime, and asked Plaid to compose the score. Safety In Solitude is an orchestral, gamelan-like gem. 

Plaid – Bowl – 2022

PLAID - Feorm Falorx

Finally, from the new album, Feorm Falorx, my pick is the moody, minor, Bowl. “Robotic, but romantic. Its dark machine rumbling topped off with tropical keys…”, its harmonic rave Hoover bass hum pitted against a pretty steel pan-toned melody.

Plaid’s latest album, Feorm Falorx is out now on Warp.

Warp Records Logo

6 thoughts on “A “Few” Personal Plaid (Related) Favourites

  1. nice list. reminds me to revisit a lot of those old Plaid/Black Dog singles. their 90s stuff definitely had some great highlights but I have kinda been digging their latest albums more. they really seem to hit the spot lately.


    1. putting the list together I realized that I basically stopped buying (quite) so many records in around 2000, when my first son was born – so if I’m honest I am much less aware of Ed and Andy’s later work – the anime soundtrack and the manga the film comes from hold a lot of personal significance – since my wife introduced me to them


  2. I can still remember the thrill of leaving Jelly Jam, Brighton with Virtual, Age of Slack along with B12’s Musicology EP and the LFO album. Good times.


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