- Plastique Mammals, The Best Of
(Self-released, cassette, digital download, vinyl)
Plastique Mammals have hardly been around long enough to rack up the cachet — let alone the catalog — required for a "greatest hits" retrospective. So, by titling their debut full-length The Best Of, the new-ish Burlington duo scoffs at the recording industry's capitalistic habit of distilling a selection of an artist's work to a streamlined, repackaged commodity. Though they're hardly the first to make the joke, it's clear that these are smart Mammals with an eye, and ear, for the subversive.
Composed of multi-instrumentalist Remi Russin and Entrance to Trains' one-man rhythm section Evan Raine, the emergent post-rock duo makes wordless, groove-based tunes that pull influence mostly from synth-pop and alt-rock. It's a blessed union. The pair concocts enough sparkle and grit to satisfy listeners who prefer either end of that spectrum.
Hardly a collection of breakaway pop hits, The Best Of is more like an extended lucid dream. It is self-assured, unafraid and locked into a contented, mid-tempo sweet spot. A few songs could easily soundtrack an artsy, late-'90s computer game adventure — think "The Curse of Monkey Island" or the third installment of "The Legend of Kyrandia." Others lean more into the foreground, trading lackadaisical, electro bliss for hard-hitting, guitar-driven rock.
"There Are Bigger Men Than Me" is the most disruptive song included — and that's a good thing. After about two minutes of looped, syncopated guitar lines over a basic bar-band beat, the tempo quickens as the track transforms into a snarling banger. The melodic theme from the song's first movement returns — with teeth.
"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" — a name plucked straight from the shelves of GameStop — is the duo's finest progressive synth effort. Electronic hi-hats and snares break through multiples layers of seesawing synths and shimmering pads.
Twinkling slow jam "Swanton, OH" blends phased bass synth with dueling melodic overtones. All that's missing is an overblown, Auto-Tuned singer to turn it into an R&B chart-topper.
Some listeners may find slow-burning rock numbers such as "Endoplasmic Reticulum" to be the album's tentpoles. Synths take a back seat to multiple layers of looped guitar, each adding counterpoint and melodic depth to the collage-like song. Russin tops off his teetering tower of guitar power with an overdriven, wriggling riff and imposing synth tones
The Best Of is a record with which you might need to spend some extra time before judging — like a potential suitor after a perplexing first date. It's familiar but also strangely alien, meaty but most definitely ephemeral.
The Best Of is released on Friday, January 12, at plastiquemammals.bandcamp.com. Plastique Mammals perform on Wednesday, January 17, at the Burrow in St. Albans.