CABARET VOLTAIRE: PLASTICITY (1992)
1) Low Cool; 2) Soul Vine (70 Billion People); 3) Resonator; 4) Inside The Electronic Revolution; 5) From Another Source; 6) Deep Time; 7) Back To Brazilia; 8) Neutron Factory; 9) Delmas 19; 10) Cooled Out; 11) Invisible Generation; 12) Soulenoid.
One thing I got to say in favor of those late-period albums by Mallinder and Kirk: at least they brought the darkness back. By the late Eighties, they had almost turned into a pretty shallow, pure-dance-oriented techno band, with just enough electronic quirks and smirks to be (sometimes way too undeservedly) classified as «acid house», but still taking the I out of IDM at every opportunity. With Plasticity, they managed to at least partially revert the process, and return to making music injected with the proper paranoia virus — joining the club of dark-minded electronic wizards with a penchant for using the extremes of technology to warn us humans about the extremes of technology. There is no talk here of being on the cutting edge, but as far as early Nineties' electronic music goes, this record does not seem particularly out-of-touch or ridiculous to me.
Not that I'm all that interested in discussing it. One ambient techno track after another, sometimes harsher, sometimes softer, usually with a few vocal overdubs — however, for the first time ever Mallinder does not sing at all, letting the music and the vocal samples do all the talking, which is at once good (because we're all kind of tired of his paranoid whispery declamations already) and bad (because it was an integral part of their identity), so that's one less detail to discuss. A typical track is ʻSoulenoidʼ, which completes the record: steady rhythm, pulsating acid bass, one atmospheric synth part forming a grey sonic cloud in the background, a six-note alarm-triggering synth riff responsible for all «movement», and some dialog sampled from some sci-fi movie or other to raise the level of tension. Seems cool, right? But the formula is reused way too often, and almost each of the tracks is like six or seven minutes long.
That said, I'm fairly sure you could play about half of these tracks back-to-back with Aphex Twin, and most people wouldn't know the difference — that's the big problem with electronic music in general, because these textures make it pretty hard to package a part of your spirit with them. As I said, the «return to the dark side» is most welcome, but the fact is, a huge lot of electronic artists create «dark» music (many more, in fact, than those that create «light» music), and there's no wonder in the fact that Plasticity simply sank to the bottom in an instant, without making anybody raise an eyebrow. The very fact of me not getting too irritated by the record (except for its horrendous length) should probably be a compliment, though — it is neither original nor memorable, but neither is it stupid. They are definitely still looking for something, and working their twin asses off, and so let us show at least a bit of critical respect by not saying "they should have retired and left us in peace by now".