Album Review: “Plastic World Volume 1″

The term ‘compilation album’ has a tendency to inject shudders into the spines of more artist-centric music fans. But for a fledgling label they often serve as proof of concept, the culmination of an underpinning idea or sound which holds their diverse roster together. Often it’s something which may not be readily defined in more conventional musical terms.

This is something that makes Plastic World Volume 1 all the more an enticing prospect. Since 2013, Sydney duo James McInnes (formerly of Future Classic) and Astral People’s Vic Edirisinghe have been curating a menagerie of cult electronic acts. Their formative compilation showcases 14 original contributions from Plastic World’s sprawling stable of artists.

But the album goes past a mere commercial listing, also touching on some more conceptual leanings. Encouraging their coterie to put forward their most unconventional works in progress, the LP’s track listing recounts a fictitious narrative. Poised on the closure of Sydney’s club culture, the album kicks off with an idyllic beachside session, evokes a visitation to a vibrant house party, crescendos into a night on the town and finally transitions into an ambient comedown.

Opener Tides provides a grand restatement of the label aesthetic of laid back vibrations, exceptional production, and retrophilic futurism. The Silent Jay & Jace XL track takes the form of electronic R&B, pushed forward by silkily soulful vocals. Like Curtis Mayfield meets Zapp.

Given the current buzz surrounding Sampa the Great, the Zambian émigré may very well prove herself one of the label’s, if not Australia’s, leading acts. Here she’s helped hungry fans to another original, second track Wonderland. With skilful wordplay and deftly unconventional production, it proves itself more than a worthwhile leading track.

The Ambient serves as a fitting introduction to the more production-based projects, which comprise the bulk of the label roster. Created under the hand of plunderphonists Young Spice, the third cut takes the form of a free-flowing ambient interlude. Love Rain Down by Melbourne’s Mondo Freaks pushes 80s synth pop to perfection. While still simmering predominantly underground, the revival of this sound seems to be well and truly kicking into a full swing.

The disco-tinged sounds of MS-DOS and Night Rider serve as a seductive introduction to harder house leaning dance track Ideal (2014) and the bubbly techno of Universal Soldier. The closing side of the album sheds more light on freeform experimentation. Thomas William’s 4G Swirl makes a definite nod to the conceptual production of New York’s Fatima Al Qardi. Those finding purchase in the experimentation of Oneotrix Point Never alongside the latest host of artists coming from labels like Ghostly and Warp, might find the textured soundscapes of Kane Ikin and Dreems cut from a similarly ambrosial swathe. The synth pads and slow chugging groove of BODY CORP.’s Efforts could sit easily beside the work of Com Truise, yet the track remains equally engaging in its own right.

Plastic World Volume 1 establishes that, dedicated followers of fashion that they are, the minds behind Plastic World have their fingers on the pulses of current trends in electronic music. This said, there’s also distinctive sonic imprints of what are likely germinations of a shared desire to create something which moves ahead of these trends. Like Warp Records Artificial Intelligence or PC Music’s PC Music, Vol 1, Plastic World Volume 1 might in time prove itself a key reference point within the current wave of Australian music.

Image: Nathan Moraza