Will the real Plaid please stand up? Andy Turner and Ed Handley, Brits who long ago came out of The Black Dog, make electronic music bent at impossible angles. Trouble is, those beats have become harder and harder to groove along with as time has passed, and Scintilli—Plaid’s first non-soundtrack album since 2003’s Spokes—is a half-hearted attempt to embrace the leftfield rhythms they first fed to clubs.
Plaid’s patterns of crystalline keys and fuzzy basslines are thoughtfully constructed, but here often seem overthought for mainstream electronica. For every pure success like “African Woods,” there might be a track like “Tender Hooks” treading an impossible line between muzak and Future Sound of London. Scintilli is a tech-nerdy, indecisive collection that at times doesn’t even sound like a “Warp Records” album.
Frankly, the album’s most interesting moments come not from tracks meant for the dancefloor—and there are scant few songs here, like “Thank,” pointing in that direction at all—but from those suggesting classical instruments and arrangements. The duo’s journey further and further into this experimental fog is likely an artifact of their recent years of work with video artists Bob Jaroc and Michael Arias.
Plaid’s channeling of orchestras and ensembles adds an element of curiosity absent from synthetic-drone film music. “Missing” rests on a foundation on keys tweaked to sound like harpsichord or concertina. “Unbank” hints at a waltz-time signature, while “Craft Nine” has a Halloween or wintry feel straight out of yet another Tim Burton/Danny Elfman project.
Ardent electronica haters might claim that the genre’s good for little other than this kind of soundtracking, and as good as the mimicry might be, Plaid strengthen that case here. Scintilli is an album better used as background noise, because its tough to either sit down with and be immersed in it, or shake, rattle, and roll to.