Greedy Baby is the exiting new collaborative package between longtime techno duo Ed Handley and Andy Turner, formerly of The Black Dog but more recently and commonly known as Plaid, and video artist/director Bob Jaroc. The audiovisuals have already played live and to impressive reception — being asked back after their performance at Ether Festival, and also being chosen to open the proceedings at the first ever Optronica festival of music and film at London’s IMAX.
The package contains both the DVD with songs and accompanying visuals — playable in stereo or high quality 5.1 surround sound — and a CD containing just the audio tracks. The CD holds its own as a classic Plaid record, with the typical dark-edged, minimal, rising, leftfield techno that has formed their staple output over the last decade. Each track is crafted perfectly to build in and swirl through adjustments of texture, dynamics and tempo but to take nothing away from the music, however, it is the complete multi-sensory experience offered by the DVD which is what Greedy Baby is all about.
clever, leftfield electronics and sometimes funny, sometimes more impacting visuals
The disc’s disorientatingly skewhiff menus hint at the content — both the clever, leftfield electronics and also the sometimes funny, sometimes more impacting visuals. The first piece “War Dialler” is named after a hacking program that finds modems at the end of phone lines and the track is made up of recorded responses to it — ranging from people questioningly greeting to automated answerphones and increasingly annoyed call-reciever aggression. The track builds up, with background noises, all shown on a screen by an animated circular graphic with machine-like pistons or keys moving away from the centre of the circle, each with a corresponding sound track (be it person or electronics). The fact that the piece is called “War Dialler” also references a theme common to much of the record, that of the invasion of Iraq by America — an event which had occured only very recently when the music and videos were concieved a few years ago — a theme which affects the whole record, giving it the darker edge to its common mood. Two other pieces which are part of the extra features of the DVD, but not appearing on the CD as part of Greedy Baby proper, contain overt references — “Crumax Ruins” (whose video is made up of a rapid montage of CNN broadcasts from March and April 2003) and “New Family” (which comes on as a twisted call to join the army — with questions like “Do you find it hard to sleep?” and “Do you have depression for no reason?” cut in with pictures of lonely and alienating empty cities alongside images of guns, war and everybody’s favourite American President).
“To”s trebly techno takes you back to a golden era of intelligent electronics
One of the lighter, more comic pieces is “The Return of Super Barrio”, with it’s music appearing lighter and with more quirk — although it is actually one of the most interstingly political tracks on the release. Based on a real story about a Mexican the story shows the rise of a average, disillusioned citizen who became a wrestler and turned into a real social-revolutionary hero and mouthpiece for the people. This video also features animation by Andy Ward.
Although all offer something intriguing, some videos are more interesting or visually stimulating than others, helping to make certain tracks stand out above others. “To”s trebly techno takes you back to a golden era of intelligent electronics harkening to the Plaid boys’ fellows Orbital and LFO although its static scene with animated birdflight silhouettes is not the most exiting of all the videos. As with “Zn Zero”, whose cerebral twinklings and twisty beats are complimented well by the images of the technotropolis intercut with Japanese dentistry, however, it maybe doesn’t offer the same quality for its entirety as other pieces do.
The haunting sounds of “I Citizen The Loathsone” creep in as a stalker would in the slowly circling deserted suburban scenes at nighttime which its visuals present — the disorientation of the tempo changes echoed but not synchronously (to great effect) with an increasing and decreasing in the speed in which the camera turns through its cityscapes — rising as a choir join into further darken the mood before a beat twists it yet more. “The Launching of Big Face” is an animated graphic piece with its screen switching between different illustrations of what appears to be an insect — the varying shapes and sizes, making the blood-coloured creature grow and shrink, acquiring all manner of different limbs and wings. The speed of the changes creates many moving patterns and morphs the image into different shapes of animals and flying machines — its flickering carefully and cleverly beatmatched.
a thin line of smoke from a snuffed match, rippling, with lights circling the screen within and around it
The lengthy musical explorations of “E.M.R” move minimally through reverberating tubes, triangle tinks and questioning keyboard chords — similarly to some of the more ambient Aphex Twin work — which are perfectly linked to the stark exploration of light which occurs in Jaroc’s video accompaniment. Starting with light through a forest at night, the video then moves through the natural environment to settler underwater before concentrating on a flame which slowly gains more focus before being having the screen gradually overtaken by images of a thin line of smoke from a snuffed match, rippling, with lights circling the screen within and around it.
“Super Positions” is one of the more hectic techno pieces, giving the listener a much meatier beat, and accordingly offers one of the more stark and arresting videos. Beatmatched like Coldcut visuals or the work of Chris Cunningham are spinning circles of light which appear for the length of the beat from — again playing strongly with high-contrast light effects — varying in colour and in the amount of smaller circles appearing as part of a larger one. Over time the shapes resemble cut fruit or eyes and also the twisting visual displays of a kaleidoscope. The beatmatching is used to great affect, playing on the points when the song cuts out for fractions of beats as the screen holds its pitch black before bursting back into life as the beat and sounds return.
Any Plaid fan would enjoy the music on Greedy Baby and the videos stand up as much more important than just the accompanying stage visuals that they have been used as and grown from. They add to the music, changing stresses and creating something altogether more special. Alone, both music and visuals would be worth investigation, but together they create a even more worthwhile package — and if the full harvest of the 5.1 surround sound can be reaped then even better.