With a gestation period of four years, and at least three parents (former Black Dog components Ed Handley and Andy Turner, and of course film maker Bob Jaroc) this CD/DVD set is most definitely a greedy baby. A labour of love formed by way of collaboration between Plaid and Jaroc, ideas have been pinging back and forth and now finally we have the finished product.
The unbearably frustrating War Dialler opens this collection. Phones ring unanswered, redials are pressed and stutter through their pulse patterns. That familiar apologetic robotic woman tells you to check the number and try again. Finally the army of android cold callers hangs up, leaving a confused human talking to themselves asking thin air: “Hello?”. A more claustrophobic opening track would have been hard to imagine, but it sums Greedy Baby up as a whole pretty succinctly. Here we have an album that is given to fits of unrivalled genius, but which at times can seem at odds with the listener. Being purveyors of that most pretentiously identified dance groups IDM, you probably shouldn’t expect any less.
I Citizen The Loathsome follows War Dialler and is a considerable breath of fresh air. Slow to start, the track develops over the course of five minutes from an almost Tubular Bells style workout into a pulsating dance track with bass heavy enough to bend the floorboards under your speakers. Set to a Jaroc movie of empty streets and autumnal trees, it’s as if Plaid have created their own apocalyptic version of Koyaanisqatsi. People have been removed from their eerie world, vanished in a thickly layered veil of electronic mystery. They’re probably all inside answering their phones to legions of War Dialling robo salesmen.
The mastery Plaid have over their art is plainly obvious throughout most of the record. E.M.R. is virtually an electronic symphony, clicking and beeping its way through emotions and moods, while To displays a metallic funky edge that is more dancey than purists might like. Super Positions provides a psyched up highlight. Out of step with the rest of the album it grinds layer again layer, sparking waves of electronic friction. A sinuous bass line drives the track, conjuring up sounds from way back, when rave ruled the roost and everyone stank of Vicks Vapour Rub during the height of summer.
Accompanying the songs on the DVD, Jaroc’s movies do little to enhance the experience of the album. In places his images jar with the ideas that the music has created in your head and at times, it feels as if you are being guided just a little too much. That said, his work on The Return of Super Barrio surpasses Plaid’s contribution. His politically charged animation places Plaid firmly in the back seat as you watch the story unfold. It is perhaps the most telling element of the collaboration that some of these ideas would work better in isolation, because when they accompany each other they do so at the detriment of one another’s work.
A slight whiff of missed opportunity perhaps, but this is by no means a stinker.