Plvs Vltra: Parthenon
Known until now more for its catalogue of heady synthesizer-based recordings (Motion Sickness of Travel's recent self-titled opus a good example), Spectrum Spools challenges listeners' expectations with its latest release, a collection of wild electronic pop by Toko Yasuda under the Plvs Vltra name. If Yasuda's name doesn't immediately ring a bell, chances are you've heard her at one time or another: she's worked for years with acts such as Enon and Blonde Redhead, and currently is handling synthesizer duties as part of St. Vincent's touring outfit. Packing eleven songs into a svelte thirty-six-minute frame, Yasuda's debut album is a well-crafted affair that's at its strongest when it's at its most conventionally song-like and restrained.
The opener “Flowers To Bees” is a case in point. Exploding on the scene with a muscular, bass-powered thunder reminiscent of Remain In Light, the tune quickly settles into an in-the-pocket pop-funk groove with Yasuda's girlish vocalizing leading the charge and electronics flickering within the churning background. With a bit of luck (a risk-taking DJ, perhaps), one could even imagine the song sneaking its way onto a radio format. “Sunkissed” and “Birthday Party” likewise achieve a melodic coherence that renders them more memorable than many of the album's less direct experimental pieces.Yasuda's no shrinking violet where sonic detail is concerned. Most of the songs are jam-packed with swirling detail, synthetic and otherwise, and the listener often comes away dizzied by the non-stop dazzle of sound. Audible beneath the title track's convulsive clatter is a raw ska jam; even more inexplicable is the mid-song story-time sequence that abruptly appears (backed with an orchestral arrangement yet). “Sweet Tooth” and “Like Spice” are as head-spinning as a prototypical Hyperdub production and do much to show Parthenon as largely genre-defining, no matter the electronic pop label that its concise songs sometimes invite. The overkill of a song like “Yume” can be headache-inducing, however, if one's not in the mood for such density. In that light, the relatively skeletal episode that emerges halfway through “World in Words” is all the more satisfying when so many of the songs' arrangements are awash in excess. In the long run, Parthenon does reward one's time and attention, but this listener would prefer to hear the balance tip more heavily in Yasuda's future output in favour of leaner, song-structured pop (like “Flowers To Bees”) and away from the experimental sound collage-like pieces that inhabit too much space on the current album.