Plank – Hivemind (2014)

Ah, it must be a happy place within the brain-sphere of Manchester’s synthy-proggy-krautrocky insect obsessed troubadours Plank. Listening to their new album, Hivemind is like opening a box of toys and magic sweets.

Hivemind cover art

‘Grasshoppers From Mars’ gets the party started with stark post punk bass, echoed with guitar and wailing electronics. The whole thing comes together beautifully, like a crate of cider and a summer’s day. Before you know you’ve got frisky percussion, the twitchy propulsion of dance beats then… er, metal guitar riffs. Riiiiight, OK. But it all works, what you are left with is a gloriously optimistic ray of chemical sunshine. The song rides out in style with long, hazy guitars.

‘Aphidelity’ is the sound of a fitness video in Tron. There’s a thought: if Plank had done the soundtrack to that IMAX mess it might have been worth watching (it’s a rum state of affairs when Olivia Wilde encased in rubber can’t save a film). Widescreen guitars and lusty synths build to a throbbing sweaty peak.

‘Dark Web’ is slower and thoughtful. Until some more metal guitar wades in, it’s like Plank live in a sitcom house and their metal fiend neighbours keep wondering in. I’m normally allergic to metal-ish guitars but Plank pull off this sound smash-up with aplomb. Ending in a manner barely recognisable from the way it started, Plank continue to surprise.

‘Swarm Behaviour’ shimmers and stabs in equal measure. Veering from ominous to playful with jazzy drumming thrown in alongside ice-pick bass this is another example of Plank mixing and matching the styles in a natural and fun way.

‘Metamorphosis’ is the sound of a new day in a medieval monastery. It has a becalming, pastoral feel as the monks wake up and go about their monk-y business. It’s bright, uplifting music, just don’t mention the Viking longship you just saw parking up.

‘Moth Lover’: the monks are playing gaily: 5 a side football. In other words, Plank lay down a gorgeous motorik groove. No dour concrete motorways though for our intrepid explorers, this is a sunny, take the top off the convertible trip.

‘Drone’ sees night fall and the monks hit the hay, leaving behind curious artefacts for Time Team to discover. A slow build up of dreamy synth work in other words.

This leads into ‘Waterboatman’ as fractured beats struggle against the tide. Every so often a threatening swell comes onto the horizon. Theres almost a hint of dub at play here.

‘Cricket’ is another peaceful, relaxing trip in the vein of ‘Metamorphosis’ and ‘Drone’. No doubt referring to the insect, ‘Cricket’ could also refer to the sport, sound tracking a late summer evening with the sound of willow on wood as a nightwatchman edges one to slip.

‘Khepri’ is so eager to start it began towards the end of ‘Cricket’. Yet more glorious, wholesome electronics. A guitar joins in the fun and the bass marshalls the fun. And then that metal band pops around again, but it still works. Winding out the album luxuriously with warmth and charm, Hivemind is a resounding success.

A sense of 80s film iconography abounds: from the aforementioned Tron to a repeated notion that the guitar work often has a sun flared widescreen dazzle that puts me in mind of To Live And Die In LA. The synth work is distinctly 80s too (I bet these guys would get on like a house on fire with Zombie Zombie… there’s an idea… joint tour guys? Playing club hours?)

My one gripe is that the album, the first half at least, should be louder.

Glorious.

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