"For Beginner Piano" (Album, 1999) !DSO Recommended!
Sublime low-fi electronica musings from this curious Warp combo. For Beginner Piano is a collection of haunting melodies that, whilst sharing some passing similarities with label mates and Birmingham neighbours Broadcast, draws more of its inspiration from 60s and 70s television and film music. This is the band's first long player after a couple of singles - Press A Key/Electronic Beauty Parlor on Wurlitzer Jukebox in 1997 and Plock b/w Simple Song/Sunday Laid Moo on Warp in 1998.
On My Bus opens this 10-track album with 50s SF film-inspired space chimes and Theremin-like warblings. The singles Press A Key and Plock also make their way onto the album. Plock introduces a subtly vocodered male voice which sits alongside floating analogue synth lines and ambient tones, making thoughts of Air irrepressible. Press A Key meanwhile reflects the influence of John Barry, a contemporary low-fi, instrumental piece with a Stylophone-like lead and just one of several tracks to directly draw from Barry's seminal theme for The Persuaders!. The album creates a homogeneous environment, an entire musical realm that sparkles with melancholic melodies and quirky yet emotional rhythms and hook lines. At times some songs (Bibi Plone) threaten to collapse under the weight of kitsch, and although one can understand why this side to Plone is given the chance to run wild on occasion they knowingly, reassuringly keep it under control for the most part.
Listening to For Beginner Piano from start to finish is very much like listening to a film soundtrack. There are recurring themes and cues and a similar moody ambience is maintained throughout. It is almost impossible to single out specific tracks as high spots as this very much a collective, but Top & Low Rent (perhaps the most John Barry-like composition), Busy Working, The Greek Alphabet, and Press A Key are all incredibly moving compositions. Minor judgemental flaws are apparent but Plone's remarkable ability to create a distinctive and compelling soundscape recalls the similarly unique talents of film composers Danny Elfman and Wendy Carlos, and by any standards that has to be illustrious company to keep. 8/10