Plike – Dark Room – EP Review
I’ve been SO EXCITED to get to this record & relay my thoughts to you – PLIKE is BACK on our pages! If you’ve been a follower here at the pages, you know how much I love the music that this artist creates – certainly if you’ve tuned into the SBS Podcast over the years, I’ve played a ton of Plike songs in effort to spread the word about the truly fantastic tunes & atmospheres being made in this project. And I’ve got GREAT news for ya, whether you’re an existing fan or a regular shmoe about to become one – I’ll be spinning some tracks from the latest EP Dark Room on the very next episode – coming out tonight! So make sure to tune in for that…because as I predicted in 2016 with the review of the album Red Queen White Queen – Plike ain’t exactly the kind of project that is ever going to let your expectations down.
PLUS – if you’re one of those people like myself & you like to follow an artist right down the rabbit hole with the music they make, you’re going to get so much out of this new record from Plike. That being said – as the title of the EP would imply, be prepared to head into some pretty dark places…this entire set of five tunes have been inspired by some truly bizarre, creepy, and downright unethical scenes from our past history. It turns out that Em, the genius mastermind behind the music of Plike, got all addicted to the show Stranger Things, which led her to checking out all kinds of haunting real life stories of the horrors of human experimentation…and that has led us here, to the Dark Room EP. To get the full-scope of the inspirations driving this record, I fully recommend that you immerse yourself in some reading and check out the insane tales of the Holmesburg Prison experiments, Project MKUltra, the Monster Study of 1939, Project Bluebird where psychiatrists attempted to deliberately create multiple personalities in people where they did not exist before, and Kamera – aka Laboratory 12, the Russian secret service poison administration, more or less. All pretty grim stuff right? Well – that’s our history for ya…it ain’t all food pics & kitten videos…underneath the surface where we’re so often afraid to look, are the stories that tell our real tale on earth all too well…Plike tapped into ALL that & more to create this EP.
With the crash of a closing door, “Holmesburg” immediately locks you in place to listen. Gliding smoothly into a dense electro vibe that imposes the weight of both the devil & the angel upon your shoulders, Dark Room makes an instant impact – LISTEN to the way these sounds are mixed on “Holmesburg!” Brilliant use of drums, the vocals are magnificent, the subtle rumble & tremble of the low-end keeps the tension on high, even with everything sounding so angelic & graceful at the surface – do you see what I’m saying dear readers, dear friends? Plike does atmosphere, ideas, imagination, and contrast about 1000 degrees better and more on-target than most artists will be lucky enough to achieve once in their lifetime, let alone constantly crack the bat as hard as Em does consistently song after song! “Holmesburg” is pretty much the ultimate in invitational sound…killer trip-hop when it comes right down to it…dangerous…because the more you get pulled into this song, the more you’ll feel like you’re about to be locked away & imprisoned by it forever as the doors crash closed around you. I could personally think of a lot of potential fates much worse…me on my own in a cell with just the music of Plike to keep me company? Where do I sign up for THAT? Because I’ll volunteer to go. Think about the potential tie-in to this record…it’s all about human experimentation…so what if a guy like myself got locked away in a tower for the next decade with only Plike to listen to & my thoughts to keep me company – how’s THAT for an experiment in awesomeness? I’d be willing to bet that after that decade spent locked away with Plike’s music I’d come out in better shape than I went in…that’s all I’m saying. For real people – the atmosphere of “Holmesburg,” the incredible use of samples, the amazing additions to the mix with surrounding haunting sounds, the ethereal vocals that whisper ‘set me free’ as if they’re guiding you to the light & the way out of this Dark Room somehow…but we’re far from escaping yet.
Nor would we want to! As nightmarish & eerie as this EP quickly becomes with “The Monster Study” – I could stay lost in these incredible vibes for forever without a single complaint. Another seriously gripping atmosphere on display upfront on this record…reading about this event was equally chilling; again, I highly recommend checking out these associated stories that inspired these tunes because they really will heighten the experience. And hey, learning is cool kids, trust me. The shortened scenario is that this was an experiment performed on what essentially boils down to available orphaned kids…forgotten about children really, who ended up being the unwilling participants in speech behavior research where half were praised for the way they talked, the other half ridiculed. As to what it proved – the mystery honestly still remains from what I can read, other than that the ridiculed half suffered psychological scars deep enough to affect their daily life for years afterwards, eventually resulting in a lawsuit filed by the ‘patients’ – which incidentally, they won. What Em’s created on “The Monster Study” does an outright outstanding job of digging right into these themes…from the haunting twinkling sounds that seem stripped right out of the nursery, to the intense vocal samples from both kids & adults that run freakishly throughout the song, to the absolutely amazing main lead vocals flowing around everything that’s happening. I thought the choice of keeping the lead vocals ‘wordless’ was absolutely amazing and a seriously insightful move…it’s like the voice of the voiceless…maybe it can’t talk so much, but it can certainly still be heard and lives inside of us all, no matter the circumstances, yearning to break free. It’s so ridiculously well-put together than you can’t help but notice how these clear & creepy sounds crawl right under your skin…Em has outdone herself here once again in the opening of this EP and created a compelling & captivating beginning to her new record that I can’t honestly imagine anyone being able to resist. It might be the stuff of nightmares – but MAN is it good! So sack-up all you Sallys out there – put your big-boy pants on & take a dive into the deep end of the scarier side of music!
“Subproject 68” has such deadly low-end…the rhythm is subtly intense but so remarkably tangible, a truly essential part of this song, slow-burning in the background while the angelic vocals soar overtop and the beastliest parts of this soundscape reveal themselves. Em has done such an impeccable job on the production & balance of her music throughout this entire EP – a standard she’s always previously set extremely high in her creations and these new ones are no exception to the quality you’ve come to expect. From the very beginning of the soldiers rallying at the start of “Subproject 68” with boots stomping the ground alongside the menacing low-end presence, you get chills. Some of these vocal samples will likely prevent a few of the faint-hearted from playing this EP after dark – but for those of us that can handle the intensity…again, there’s just nothing here that would stop you from wanting to spin this all damn day every day. Plike gets it right, 100% of the time – “Subproject 68” is just as much proof of that as any of the songs on this record are…this is more than commendable music being made here – Em is leading the way in her genre & style…whatever you might consider that to be, she’s number one. Like many artists that are instrumental, which essentially Em is, they add their ‘voice’ & perspective through the samples they use…and many artists out there can do it really well by using smart selections. Em proves on “Subproject 68” that there is STILL more to it than that…that it’s not just what you use, but how you use it; she’s picked out amazing samples to use, but listen to the precision in the placement and the effect that has on the way this song moves. Or any of these songs for that matter, but we happen to be discussing “Subproject 68” right at this moment…you get the idea; the effort is being made and the results are there – Plike is structuring songs that continually pull you in until they absorb you in-full and envelop you entirely.
Definitely mad props & shout-outs to the incredible job that vocalists Linda Strawberry and Holly Drummond have put into this record. As to who’s doing what or when, I’m not always exactly sure – but I can tell you for a certain fact that every single note & whisper I’ve heard from either of them has been fantastically flawless. I’m thinking you might even get both of them at once on a track like “Bluebird.” That’s a bonus for you, if that is indeed the case…either way, you really can’t go wrong with these two pros – every time you hear the beautiful, graceful, angelic, & ethereal tones of their voices, they add dimension & depth to the whole song in a way that really complements what’s already happening. Essentially, rather than dominate the lead like so many singers in bands do etc., they play a significantly strong supporting role in enhancing the environments being established so impressively by Em. I don’t know which demons she has summoned to guest star on the beastly & gnarly vocal samples that occur throughout “Bluebird” – and I’m not about to head off & consult my Ouija board to figure it out for myself. I can definitely get that a track like “Bluebird” might be tougher for the average Top-40 listener out there to wrap their heads around – but c’mon…we’ve all got ears right? “Bluebird” is so darkly beautiful & stunning…that bright twinkling xylophone-like melody becomes twisted & haunting…the multiple layers of voices and whispers again echoing the story that inspired this tune as they drift in & out. Some more forcefully than others. I bet this song could even become an interesting psychological study on its own; it would be incredibly interesting to learn about which sounds people ‘hear’ more in a song like “Bluebird” – because at its core, the mix & contrast are really evenly split between the light & the dark. So are you drawn to the beauty of a song like “Bluebird” or to its darkness? I think it’s gotta be awesome to examine the people that examine your music…this song should make that fun for Plike.
If you are looking for something a bit more accessible, it’ll likely be the last song, “Laboratory 12,” which features Philly-based producer Digibilly in the mix. Honestly, I don’t even know how you’d begin or end a collaboration like this – but I can tell ya the results are bangin’ for sure! With increased tempo & pace, “Laboratory 12” has the distinct advantage of pulling listeners in through the wild ride it becomes and how dramatically different the overall sound & approach to this final tune is by comparison to the rest. Smart placement on this record…it’s got great energy to leave us on and this much of a switch in sound likely would have felt jarring were it to occur somewhere in the middle of the Dark Room EP, but right at the end, that’s a perfect spot for Plike to make that last shift and deliver that lasting impression. It’s also nearly double the length of the rest of the tunes on the record, so there’s definitely more space to be flexible – and together, they take solid advantage of that extra room & really add a ton into the structure. Digibilly & Plike will take you into smooth electro and switch it up fearlessly into true IDM-inspired moments that highlight that scattered sound that makes the genre such an intense one to listen to. Perhaps the best thing is, you never really see this one coming – “Laboratory 12” will test you a ton of times along the way, making sure you’re listening with your full attention by switching the vibe up completely. The way “Laboratory 12” morphs and transitions creates a genuinely epic ending to Plike’s Dark Room EP – still chill enough to fit in with the rest, but with enough rambunctious sound ripping at you at times to give this last song that extra push to make an impact on ya & leave you on a memorable note. I’d say that’s a mission fully accomplished – Plike has absolutely done it again with this wicked EP full of beautiful horrors & nightmares come to life – just know what you’re getting yourself into! 100% killer from wall to wall – it’s out there now so go get yourself a copy – straightjacket sold separately.
Find out more about Plike at the official website at: http://www.plikemusic.com
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