Plaid / The Square Root of Evil Biltmore, Vancouver BC November 21

Plaid / The Square Root of Evil Biltmore, Vancouver BC November 21
Although she assumes the personality of mild-mannered Vancouver native Jen Pearson by day, by night the Square Root of Evil becomes another beast entirely. Though her cat-laden visuals and T-shirt may fool casual observers at a glance, Pearson does not make "girly" electronic music, the kind of vocal-centered cafe music or synth pop that has become so cliché for electronically inclined women. Rather, the Square Root of Evil produces an aggressively beat-driven blend of tribal, 8-bit, techno and glitch that some would categorize as IDM, becoming the sort of pulsing brain dance of which Rephlex would certainly approve.

Pearson seemed a little tense when she first appeared behind her laptop, MIDI controller and mixer. However, as the crowd started moving, a smile invaded her arresting features that would stay put for the duration of her set. Her sound maintained the momentum as she kept the transitions smooth, moving through various sub-sub-genres while almost constantly pushing the tempo harder and faster, challenging the listener to keep up or get out of the way.

With a veritable who's who of the Vancouver electronic scene in attendance, including Urceus Exit and LongWalkShortDock, British duo Andy Turner and Ed Handley wasted little time reminding everyone who they were there to see: the infamous Plaid. Granted, the pair started off with the entirely ambient "35 Summers" and its accompanying Japanese octopus video, but they quickly progressed into low-key 4/4 numbers and kept moving into up-tempo breakbeat, eventually almost hitting drum and bass while dropping some more obscure time signatures like 6/4 and 10/4 along the way.

Indeed, Plaid do not make your standard brand of club-friendly electronic music, but rather their own unique style of lush esoterica that ecstatically tickles headphones to veritable orgasm. Their sound is beyond standard genre classification, immersive yet technical, hypnotic yet unsettling, off-kilter yet groovy, with such finesse and balance. One wants to dance constantly, but often ends up vaguely bouncing in a physical expression of awe.

The longtime Warp artists maintained a stoic demeanour onstage in front of their trio of laptops. Yet their synchronized head-nodding betrayed their inner joy. Though their visuals were obscured by the low stage and their sound hindered by the mediocre sound system, Plaid's nuanced genius was still clearly on display. The search for the next level is over... for now.