First growth bears sweet fruit…
Skimming through titles, you might suspect that ‘Plant Plants’ indicated gardening instructions for absolute beginners. Though their name is satisfyingly ungoogleable for that very reason, it’s actually the moniker of a rather intriguing glitch/indie (glindie? Fire up the genre-ator!) duo from the urban bowels of Hackney. Their eponymous debut EP acts as their manifesto, a poised balance of heavy programmed beats and analogue instrumentation- almost half man, half machine. Naturally, it’s achingly hip, riding the zeitgeist shamelessly, but there’s evidence here that they are already well on their way to mastering of their art.
A melancholic, muted wash of gently stroked piano and twinkling guitar, it drifts along elegantly into the ether.
Stylistically, they’re not a million miles from the blips‘n’breaks of Gold Panda or the pop-savvy rock-tronica of the Big Pink, but with unconventional guitar tunings that would make Foals stroke their chins and a cinematic widescreen sheen. Though the beats may be prominent, they are married to a winning way with melodies. It’s the kind of music remixers will be queuing round the block to get their hands on.
Their initial masterstroke was securing the services of Simian Mobile Disco’s Jas Shaw in the producer’s chair. As a veteran of both guitar and electronic production, there could be no better candidate to bring out the best in their music. Essentially, the EP appears to be a showcase for the varied facets of their oeuvre, and, in that case, is 75% successful.
But just what, exactly, is the best of Plant Plants? That question is answered immediately by lead track ‘Hands That Sleep’. Largely stunning, it begins with a juddering, broken beat spliced together from found sounds that could well be anything from footsteps to crumpling paper. Then comes the guitar, tuned to something beguilingly obscure, feverish, itchy and intense. It’s a great guitar sound, taking a ubiquitous instrument and drawing unimaginable shapes with it. An oozing sub-bass adds deep colurs to the picture, before the woozy synths kick in, swooping surreally overhead, and everything comes together in sharp focus. The contourless estuary vocals may add little musically, but firmly tether the song in the human realm. Aside from an embarrassingly Americanised spoken-word segment near the end, ‘Hands That Sleep’ is a tour de force, and instantly marks Plant Plants out as ones to watch.
I'm So Black by Plant Plants by Plant Plants
If only they hadn’t decided to follow such a monumental peak with the disappointing trough that is ‘I’m So Black’. Just in case you’re wondering, by the way, both Stuart Francis and Howard Whatley, the men behind Plant Plants, are bearers of the classic white English studio tan, which momentarily made me wonder if the title were an ironic statement in the vein of Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’, only potentially more offensive. A toothless piece of urban-pop synth-hop nothingness, it involves naggingly chiming electric piano and banal, slo-mo rapping, curdled even more by some infuriatingly pointless vocal FX. You can’t help but wonder why they bothered including it in an otherwise engaging debut. Hopefully, this isn’t a direction they’re taking too seriously, or any further.
Thankfully, the quality recovers dramatically from this low point, with the pretty pop of ‘She’s No One’. Founded on a gorgeous, almost folky guitar motif, it rarely puts a foot wrong. Treading a fine line between surging synthesised bedding and airy, sun-kissed melody, it represents an artful reconfiguration of classic summertime indie-pop, and its four minutes breeze past effortlessly.
As a veteran of both guitar and electronic production, there could be no better candidate to bring out the best in their music.
This leaves only the wispy closer, ‘Dandelion’. A melancholic, muted wash of gently stroked piano and twinkling guitar, it drifts along elegantly into the ether. Though its wistful psych-prettiness cuts an indistinct form, the wistful air and fluid progression are affectingly effective.
All in all, the purpose of the ‘Plant Plants’ EP appears to be as a mission statement, outlining the different aspects and abilities of the band. In an elemental sense, it succeeds at this, though some of its constituent parts are far less edifying than others. Overall, though, it’s more than convincing enough evidence that Plant Plants will be worth following through their future development, and it’s bound to be interesting to hear where they go next.
‘Plant Plants’ EP is released 20th June on Less Music