Plaid: Spokes

Warp, 2003

Spokes cover

Spokes isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t live up to Plaid’s peak, the wonderfully melodic Rest Proof Clockwork. In fact, this LP reminds me of recent Orbital releases, with loud, busy dance tracks that seem like they’re about to burst into song, but leave me yearning for more melody. There aren’t any of the downtempo electronic ballads I’ve come to expect of Plaid, nor are there any hip-hop references. Instead, this is rather straight-forward electronica. From the slow-building “Even Spring” to the meandering, crackling “Cedar City” Spokes makes for good driving music, but for home listening it comes across as too familiar, too simplistic.

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  1. I disagree! It takes a few days for the complexity to sink in. I initially thought the same thing. One day it just clicked and Spokes has turned out to be as good if not better than some of the work they did under Black Dog. I do agree with your Orbital assessment, they’ve been on the wane since the Brown album.

  2. Yes – a little different, but one of my favorite releases this year.

  3. Plaid have usually delighted me with their melodicism. I agree that ‘Spokes’ is far too simplistic, without the hip-hop references, without the fun! I’ve been a Plaid fan for a long while, and I loved the remix compliation. This one leaves me wondering… what happened?

  4. Being a big Plaid fan I was expecting great things from this LP. I really like the artwork and for me the problem with LP is not so much it’s lack of complexity because I feel there’s enough of that for me. It’s just that the songs are quite ‘samey’ there is little in the way of contrast and diversity in the sounds that previous LP’s had. There are a couple of beauties on here, namely Zeal and B Born Droid but overall I’m a bit disappointed.

  5. The excellent “buns” has to be on the list of stand-out tracks on this album, too, Grant. Stunningly beautiful.

  6. try to listen with headphones. a new micro cosmos will be appear. this album is really excellent.

  7. Come on folks,PLAID was ,is and will be the greatest thing (maybe some KRAFTWERK competition) we have on the ambient-techno-IDM field!

  8. Spokes is not a bad record. “Even Spring” is terrific and the rest is pretty decent too. Not For Threes is, however, still their best release.

  9. i’d have to agree with “g”. at first i wasn’t too impressed with hearing spokes. this is a different plaid album in that it has no filler—no little noodling ambient sound segways. the beats are more straigtforward and aggressive and for the most part, faster. you hear elements of hip-hop in the breakbeats, though the more traditional downtempo element isn’t there so much. i think this album was probably influenced by plaid’s touring—the traveling all over the place—there is a real sense of travel in this music, in some cases an almost frantic feeling is evoked. this is a real techno album, put out at a time when techno isn’t much in vogue anymore–perhaps a nod to detroit. when i saw plaid on their last tour, a lot of people were dancing, which i found refreshing, as opposed to seeing a bunch of po-faced geeks noding their heads and staring at laptops. i think plaid have responded to that “shake-ya ass element” with spokes. don’t get me wrong though. there are oodles of those trademark magical plaid melodies layered throughout and the complexities of the beats and rhythms unfold more and more with each listen. i found every plaid album to be extremely good in it’s own way, and “spokes” is no exception. i hope these guys keep making music until they croak.

  10. People have an obnoxious tendency (especially with releases from the Warp Artists) to hate a release simply because it doesn’t sound exactly like all their previous releases. It took you a while to find all those little things you cherish about “Rest Proof Clockwork” and “Double Figure” so what makes you think “Spokes” is any different? Eh? And “Even Spring” is downright amazing. Lose your petty expectations and just listen to the beautiful sounds of Plaid. Is that so HARD?

  11. I agree with all the praise; Spokes is an amazing album. Okay, so Plaid didn’t reinvent the wheel–they just made a consistent album full of complex, beautiful electronic music that I keep on coming back to. Sure, you could listen to some guy jack off on his iBook, and call it “visionary,” or you could listen to some actual music, like Plaid “Spokes.”

  12. I don’t like it as much as double figure or rest proof clockwork. I was disappointed by it. Plaid are probably my favourite electronic act, so i’ve relistened to spokes many times. The production skills are there, the complexity – but it just doesn’t have something that previous releases did IMO
    so thats my opinion, feel free to be offended by it

  13. Hello, i came recently to IDM, link after link where roots come from… 70’s prog group Camel. (Indeed, keyboarders Peter Bardens or the excellent Kit Watkins)
    I love “Double Figure”, a real masterpiece i can’t get enough. Very intelligent made, long in mind, almost conceptual. I bought Spokes yesterday, and after the 1st listen i was very impressed. Maybe less melodic than DF, but quiet enjoyable. Big sounds! I’m shure i will love it. Can’t wait to discover Plaid’s previous efforts.

  14. I am a huge IDM-fan, Plaid is even one of the more ‘commercial’ artists in my vinyl collection, but with this new album they seem to establish their wonderful fluffy soundscapes again.
    Is is the best album they’ve made?
    I don’t think so, but it is a perfect headphone-thing. The sound they create is very ‘Plaidian’ and that sure is a thing we shouldn’t get angry with.It’s mental masturbation in a way you can get overdosed.Muy bien

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