I was lucky enough to find a fantastic little album by ‘Plusplus’, aka Adam Radmall. This album, ‘Game Over’, has been released for free, with the option of purchasing a limited edition CD. That’s quite nice.
It proclaims itself as ‘psych-folk’, which is true to a certain extent. When I think of folk, I think of sweaty crowded pubs in small towns filled with ex-acid users gawping in awe at a gang of virtuoso folk instrumentalist and a front man juggling a flute whilst singing songs of old. Add the ‘psych’, and you have all that crammed into the mind of the flute/organ player Thys Van Leer from the 1970s band Focus. Even though I’m fairly sure few others share the same opinion as me, this album really is a ‘heady’ experience. It can quite easily put you into a barmy state of mind…
In the spirit of crushing convention, I will outline the bad things about this album first (please don’t stop reading!). The production is loose, and sometimes obstructs the transparency of the potential experience. I love rustic recordings, don’t get me wrong. But a cloudy recording paired with very dry artificial-sounding drum sounds, it unearths the hifi-git in me. I think my main problem is the continual subconscious comparison with the artist ‘Mice Parade’. He also makes great compositions, however Mice Parade is streets-ahead with his recording and mixing styles (as well as being an incredible drummer). Most importantly, it’s the retaining of character in the recording through adept production techniques, and the continuum between all subsequent parts which sets these two artists apart. This is a very hard thing for any recording artist to achieve, however there is still a fair way to go for this composer to really put his exquisite ideas to paper with the finesse it deserves.
Now, the lack of strong production in this album is also contributory to one of its greatest virtues. There is a noble character in these songs. The loose style is very distinctive, and becomes familiar very quickly. With the exception of a few moments where the feel is briefly disrupted, the instrumental playing style, primarily on a nylon-stringed guitar, becomes the most prominent asset, and flows beautifully from every track. If the production was ‘sharper’ and ‘louder’, this would work against the composer, as this rustic element would be lost in a muddle of ‘let’s-impress’ (one can see that I am but a few sentences from entirely contradicting myself, therefore I must tread carefully with my final conclusion int he last paragraph!).
The compositions are baffling, and deeply for-filling. This music really gets in your brain and pokes it around. Time seems to last longer, and very subtle changes in some of the more minimal passages are met like meteors. The diversity of sounds contained within these songs is largely kept to real instruments, or at least the synthesis of real instruments. I would love to hear a full band attempt to play some of these tracks whilst exhibiting the feeling captured by the composer. Some of the melodic passages really pounce on the soul; the descent of root note in ‘Song For Sonny’ was a such a lush surprise; the flowering moment halfway through ‘Game Over’; 1:41 on ‘The Old Country’ is absolutely fantastic (and actually contrary to my ramblings earlier in this review, Adam is pretty close to the magic of Mice Parade throughout this whole piece…). The driving anguish of ‘Broken Doors’ proves the composers accomplished compositional versatility. In contrast, the muffled delicacy of ‘Tiny Hands’ is extremely well played, and exhibits a sonic-creativity which leaves me disappointed upon the track’s inevitable yet unwelcome ending. ‘Echoes’ is without a doubt my favourite, the live drums are such a treat (expertly played by Bryan Styles). A preview can be found below (and I love the left-side ‘chair-scrape’ at 2:34…).
The style of this music is such a fine balance. Too polished, and it loses the essence of the artist. Too sloppy, and there is not enough of the artist’s essence retained. With this album, Plusplus has the potential for exploiting his remarkable abilities with tidier production, without smothering his fine compositions with audio-cement. Still, I am just nit-picking… This really is quite a beautiful album of some superb music. Adam is the guitarist for the band ‘Plantman’, who have an album out very soon, and I am pretty sure he will be bringing his fluid, natural, and emotive style of playing to our ears again very soon.
Plusplus – Echoes
Deeplink to: Release page
Deeplink to: Bandcamp release page (good if you prefer streaming, and buying CDs!)