Plaid Talk 'Scintilli,' Robotic Instruments and Live Translation

Plaid Talk 'Scintilli,' Robotic Instruments and Live Translation
Classic British IDM duo Plaid have just released their first album in over five years. They haven't spent the past half decade being idle, however, having scored two film soundtracks for director Michael Arias, built a new music studio in from scratch, collaborated with British artist Felix Thorn on his Felix's Machines project, and worked on their new album, Scintilli, which was released this week.

"We probably finished it in February," Plaid member Ed Handley tells Exclaim! "It was all really written from start to finish in about three years. Obviously not three years' solid work."

One of the major distractions in making the album was building a soundproofed shed at the bottom of Plaid member Andy Turner's garden so the duo could have a dedicated studio for making their albums and soundtrack work.

"We call it a shed but really it's a log cabin," says Handley. "It's like something you'd find in the Swiss Alps but not particularly big. It must be three by three metres inside."

In addition to Scintilli and recent soundtrack work, Plaid have been collaborating with artist and musician Felix Thorn for his Felix's Machines project. Thorn builds archaic-looking, wood-and-metal music-making kinetic sculptures that look almost Victorian or like a prop from a Terry Gilliam film. Plaid wrote several tracks using the machines, as well as performing them live at shows in France and London.

"The idea of robotic instruments is really exciting and kind of one of the dreams of electronic music, so we'll keep going with that and see what happens," says Handley. "No definite plans yet but we'll keep going. A lot of it is deconstructed pianos and things so it's this mixture of wood and solenoids. It's great to look at and it has a very particular sound. It's sort of nice, it's going the opposite direction everyone would expect, which is miniaturization and digitization."

For Plaid's forthcoming North American tour this November, they decided to travel as light as possible, taking a laptop to create generative visuals and mainly using iPads as controllers. For some electronic musicians, the translation to a live setting is often an unnatural one but Plaid enjoy the challenge.

"The thought of it is not always that exciting because it's an upheaval, especially if you've spent a lot of time in the studio, which is quite an isolated experience," Handley says. "The idea of suddenly getting in front of people and trying to make people happy is daunting but after the first gig it all becomes really natural and good fun."

Scintilli is out now via Warp. The CD will be available in a limited-edition 'muda na mono' puzzle pack, the name taken from a Japanese phrase meaning "pointless object." It contains two die-cut rings and a CD, which if correctly aligned, the sphere created allows the track titles to be read.

To read more from Exclaim!'s recent Plaid interview, head here.