Now that they are solidly into their third decade of making music together, Plaid could be forgiven a couple of moments where their melodic, bright form of electronic music feels slightly tired. However, their last few albums retain a spark uncommon in acts this long in the game that don’t rely on burning the script with every release. Whether it’s a reaction to their years in the world of film scoring or the competency of years working on their craft, it’s certainly admirable. That said, the results often leave a lot to be desired, and The Digging Remedy is no exception.
The tracks here are short – on average about three and a half minutes – which gives a cut like ‘The Bee’ some benefit. Imagine a Bibio riff without the drowning reverb and a shuffling hip-hop-like beat and you’d be close. If a track like this were stretched out into the five-minute range you’d tear a ligament from checking your watch so often, but as it is here it’s a pleasant exercise, not exactly inspired, but low-key fun all the same.
More disappointing are the moments that feel like rethreads. ‘Dilatone’ and ‘Saladore’ both feel like they could have come straight from an early Artificial Intelligence compilation, but sell themselves short both by their short lengths and placement in an album that appears to be more interested in the application of guitars to straightforward beats. Perhaps these tracks could have benefitted from some extra attention paid to atmosphere and tone – ‘Dilatone’ especially could become pleasingly immersive if the drums were ever so slightly turned down in the mix.
Elsewhere, the duo pay side-eye to rave-like synth stabs on the single ‘CLOCK’ and ‘Yu Mountain’ and while neither feel like a desperate cling to the glory days they both feel like half-measures, flirting with the possibility of sweeping up the listener and deigning to go no further. Surprisingly, the most promising moments are the ones where Plaid’s placement as elder statesmen is most apparent. Several of the tracks here include the addition of not just guitar but flute by Benet Walsh. He makes the biggest splash on ‘Lambswood’, making the track sound like a new-age spin on the formula one would expect from an IDM act while avoiding sounding like something that would play in the office of a quack in a tie-dyed shirt harping on about negative energy or some such nonsense.
It may be a while yet before Plaid are able to once again make a statement with one of their releases, but there’s enough here to suggest that another left-field turn may pay dividends in the future.