It’s been a long time since Plastikman last checked in. The world has changed, music has changed, but Plastikman remains the same, excellence realized in techno form. Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman project indisputably delivers on his reputation as a master of innovative techno, and you will find yourself putting this album on repeat. Please bear in mind this is not like much techno you hear out there currently, so do not expect a techno banger or a cool underground tech house tune. This is Richie Hawtin expressing himself as he hears the music in his head, and he arguably does a great job at that.
There is a cinematic quality to Plastikman’s new album EX. There is a story to be told, a dark journey into a world full of considerations for the future and past, subsequent anxieties, beauty and perfectionism. The album as a whole feels very alive, and truly is a futurist techno success.
EX is an EXcursion into the past EXploring the uncertainty of the future, EXpanding and EXtending the immersive atmospheres
of my Plastikman Project.” Richie Hawtin aka Plastikman
I believe Hawtin’s well worded description of the album touches on all of the triumphs, and demonstrates a man who knows what he is doing. It does feel like it draws on the full spectrum of techno as well. It is no easy feat,touching on inspirations from the early days, but with a focus to the future, to bring you a very contemporary, relevant, forward thinking album.
The quality of production on this album is second to none. Hawtin is a maestro, and I am not quite sure if too many have come close to what he has delivered here. I especially like the fact that it is a live album, as he has indicated it is from his December performance at the Guggenheim. This strengthens the album as a whole because it makes it feel so complete, each song glides into the others. If I were not able to look at the tracklist, I would think it is a 53 minute song. A friend of mine expressed some discontent in that he was hoping for a truly produced album, with individual tracks, not really a live composition. Yet, I think Plastikman is making a statement that you need to think much bigger, and he certainly delivers on an epic scale.
Overall, it is a true story playing out with each song a different chapter, a different stage in Plastikman’s latest quest. It never is abrasive, it is just so smooth and well put together. It is a true audio adventure with Plastikman as our bold hero and you are along with him all the way.
Now, I’m going to break down my experience with each track individually, please feel free to press play and follow along.
And for those without Spotify, the album is available to stream in its entirety via Vimeo:
It all starts appropriately with a synth reminiscent of a digital heartbeat, beating ever so slowly of course, but very much full of life, and gaining strength as it awakens. Overall, with this song, the album is turning on, booting up. In a sense, I think this is Plastikman saying, “Hey, I’m back, and it’s time to pay attention. We’ve got a lot of territory to cover…”
Ominous and arguably the most cinematic in its ambience, it furthers the protagonist of the album, wherein the hero begins to get his bearings. All this in the form of pristine synths jumping along elegantly and ever so smooth. Almost sounds like Plastikman’s logo wiggling along with arms and legs flailing about.
The element of uncertainty mentioned by Hawtin I think is present throughout EXpand. There is an anxiety that I perceive in this song, not too uncomfortable, but a motivating anxiousness. The depth achieved in this song is effective in inducing a sensation of isolation, powerlessness. This song is an expansive void, and our hero here might be feeling rather small. This is what informs my sensation of anxiety. Now I ask the question, is the hero Plastikman? Are we now in his mind? Are we experiencing what it must be like to be Plastikman in the studio attempting to go out into the technoverse and discover new territory? Maybe just my interpretation, but it works for bringing me deeper into the song.
This song has a sinister tone. It has jagged teeth with its rhythm and the mildly stabbing synths bite at you. It chews and gnaws; there is a savage quality to it. If there were a villain to combat Plastikman, I think this song is it. It makes sense then why it would be titled extrude, for the uninformed it means to thrust or force out. Plastikman must now truly fight back after being pushed away from his objective. I particularly love the energetic escalation at the 3:18 mark. So far the most danceable track of the album.
This song wants you to dance, time to see what Plastikman’s music does for your dance moves. It’s fun and sexy, but dark. Great minimalism here, it does a lot with very little, and Richie, I love your philosophy of less is more. It’s doing great things on EXplore.
Was Richie trying to give us a hint here that he was getting a little exhausted? After all, he’s exerting all of his creative energy to give us this album. Or is this where he is really bringing it? This is my favorite song on the album, the strongest and most in your face of the entire project. It commands your attention with its crescendo at the beginning of the song, and continues to rise from there. I appreciate the effective escalation of energy, it enhances the cinematic theme of the entire project, really making you feel as a participant in Plastikman’s journey. In this tune, we are on the cusp of something huge, and then Richie brings it full bore right in the middle… Oh man, it just starts going nuts in the best way possible!
You made it… Deep breathes out, deep breathes in. Time to process it all, and what better way to do that than with some more minimalism to get you dancing? I love the undulating quality, the revolving bassline that goes round and round, almost liquid in essence. The ambience picks up here to help close out the journey. Plastikman made it through, and the adventure achieved something great - a sonic masterpiece that is full of emotion, exploration and experimentation. I love the synths at the end, almost sounds like Plastikman signing off and saying “Until next time…”
In summation, if you want to put some fine art in your ears, then I highly recommend Plastikman’s EX. I can’t stop listening to it, and I just feel so inspired by it. Thank you Plastikman. Now, the time is right, please bring your live concept Objekt stateside, I need to spend sometime with that amazing looking Obelisk...