Darkly Majestic Stardust: Getting To Know Plaitum

Colchester is a town that lies about 80km outside of London and by the looks of it, it could easily be the set of a British period drama. With claims to be the oldest town in Britain, it’s pretty little alleyways and historical buildings are about as quaint as a postcard. Then, to imagine tucked away in a bedroom studio, noise blaring out and bouncing off the aged brick, a pair of youth making the most darkly intricate electronic walls of sound; it’s the best kind of juxtaposition. And it might be a little bit romantic, but that’s how I picture the sounds of Plaitum coming to life.

We recently posed some question to the childhood friends and duo, Matt Canham and Abi Dersiley, as the waves of chatter continued to build over breakout track LMHY and equally affecting follow up Carousel. At twenty years old, it is little wonder that the pair’s music makes you feel like simultaneously screaming and dancing like you’re in the bedroom of your first share-house.

With heady layers of noise that are deeply introspective but also highly relatable, there is a constant push and pull between the soft and the hard. The soaring voice of Dersiley gives way to her piercing shriek, and it’s so damn good that it should come as no surprise that midas producer Paul Epworth just had to sign them to his label Wolf Tone. With a long list of luminaries on his resume including Adele, Florence and The Machine, Crystal Castles, Lana Del Rey and Glass Animals (to name a very few), the Plaitum moniker joins a golden class.

When asked about the impact Epworth has had on their sound, the pair are glowing about his influence.

“He’s really helped us grow as artists,” Dersiley said, “helping us adapt and perfect our writing techniques. Like listening to particular tracks with fresh ears, pushing the hooks to the foreground and trimming away rough skin.”

According to Canham, he provides guidance as needed: “I produce the tracks but he helps gear them towards completion – looking at the bigger picture of the song and making little structural changes, helping steer us towards a certain “sound” or just helping find the song and tighten up the melodies. He’s also a bit of a guide – if we’re stuck with anything he’s a great place to turn because he has a way of making you think about stuff in a way you haven’t previously. He also helps us make stuff sound really gritty.”

And while the output is just starting to come to light, the union isn’t a new one. Back in 2012 the pair contributed track Geisha to a Kitsune compilation, and soon after started working with Epworth to write new material.

“We were 16 when we wrote Geisha and didn’t really have many other tracks ready so we just spent some time building up some songs and growing up. A bit,” Canham noted.

It was during high school that the creative relationship between the two friends began, and they fill us in on the kinds of music and experiences they first bonded over. Canham recalled, “we were always into the same kind of music, we would always send each other tracks we were into and talk about what we liked in them. We also have a really similar taste in films, so as soon as we started spending time together outside of school we found a way of writing in which we’d put on a film silently and write to that – almost like a live soundtrack. I think this is why a lot of our tracks have such a cinematic sound.”

“We bonded over our love of music and our friendship just grew from then on,” said Dersiley.

Canham also ventured into some of the bands that shaped those early days and might have contributed to their sound in some way.

“We were really into Gorillaz together, before we found a whole host of bands we liked in the “Witch House” movement in 2011, bands like Salem, oOoOO and White Ring all really inspired us and we used to just sit listening to those for hours on end. During an old music exam we finished early and decided to try making something like that – it ended up just being a way to find some sounds, but the next week we made Geisha.

The lyrics that overlay the tracks that we have heard to date are rich in emotion with Dersiley noting in previous press releases that LMHY traces the honeymoon period of a relationship and Carousel documents how it feels to be drowning in someone else’s deception. I posed the question of whether the songs are a bit of therapy in a way, and have helped navigate those tumultuous late teen years.

“Most definitely, most the tracks are written about experiences we’ve had. It’s very therapeutic, especially if you’ve been through some nasty stuff. Some tracks are just scary stories based on real life murders, twisted tales and what not,” she replied.

On the collaborative process and how the songs come to life, there is a real sense of oscillation between nurturing each others personal ideas, and creating from shared experience.

“Most often they’re individual ideas that we build the song around. One of us will come to the other with the idea and we’ll spend a few hours fleshing it out and seeing if it goes somewhere – usually it’s me making a beat then Abi adding instruments and vocals to it to flesh it out,” Canham noted.

“We do often start from scratch together though, it’s a much more open way of writing and can lead to some better results, because you both want to get your best ideas down together.”

With only a couple of tracks in the public sphere, there are already big critical comparisons to other artists that populate this dark and moody electronic sphere including Purity Ring and CHVRCHES. Without giving it too much thought, the pair seems to be just taking it in their stride, and doing what feels right to them.

“I don’t feel any different before or after the comparisons, we do our thing they do theirs and all is well in the forest,” Dersiley said.

“I think our “sound” is something I spent a lot of time trying to hone, so it’s nice being compared to those particular artists who’ve done the same thing and have a specific sound and feel to their work, we try and make stuff as dark and heavy as possible, then sharpen everything up in the studio. We always try to do something we – or anyone else for that matter – haven’t done before,” added Canham.

And despite some similarities, there is definitely a sense of something new and fresh in amongst all that grinding bass and those pulsating synths. With the EP left to complete and everyone wondering what’s up next, it looks like we will have to wear these tracks out for a little while longer, with a wait until 2016 for any new additions to the repertoire or live shows.

“We’ll probably head on the road early next year – Christmas isn’t a great time to do the kind of shows we’ll do. We’re planning some more releases for the beginning of next year so we’re pulling those into shape now ready for it, and we’ll probably do shows when they come out,” Canham said.

And according to Dersiley, “We are humbled by the feedback, It’s great that people are vibing off the tracks, so far.”

And vibing we certainly are. We look forward to tracing the trajectory of a duo that are already leaving a trail of light like shooting stars racing across the night sky. It is going to be so exciting to see where they land and paw over their particular brand of darkly majestic stardust.