XLV’s self-titled debut release is divided roughly along the A and B programs on its handmade cassette. Side A is largely made up of songs that revolve around the human voice and how our brain processes language aurally. On “Cover Its Face” ex-Volt 9000 member Andrew Dobbels starts by cutting up words, rearranging and dropping syllables and otherwise hacking a lengthy sample, eventually allowing it to coalesce into comprehensibility in contrast to the deep analogue kicks, whirrs and metallic pads that make up the song’s instrumental. The effect is both intriguing and unnerving: while the election night broadcast on the brief “Have & Hold” is kept mostly intact, those voices heard on “Four” and “Qual der Wahl” are drowned in acidic distortion and deep reverbs until they are indecipherable. Side B abandons voices entirely and dives headlong into chaotic sequencing, using chattering squeaks and squeals, blasts of noise and elastic synth basses as building blocks. “Chisel” is the most uptempo of these, bordering on rhythmic noise at points, a quality shared by “Zeroing” which plays more sedate while blurring the line between deliberate saturation and fuzz and actual signal degradation. The tape stands as a pretty good mission statement for Dobbels, eschewing genre and style markers for broader ideas and experiments in sound and structure.
Plack Blague’s Night Trax is EBM at its sweaty, leather-clad, filthiest. Electronic Body Music has long had an aesthetic fascination with muscles and S&M, but the Nebraska based-project actually inhabits those arenas, abandoning subtext for a record of full on leather daddy sex jams. Odes to cruising like “Just Another Man of the Street” and “Man on Man” rely on swinging rhythm programming, keeping the instrumentation minimal so that Raws Schlesinger’s keening, come-on vocals can be in the spotlight. “Destroy The Identity” speeds that template ever more until its rapidly bubbling synthline loses all its musicality, providing a weirdly groovy underpinning to Raws’ demands that you “fuck the man who fucks with you”. In fact there are quite a few interesting diversions from the body music template here, like the spacey dark electro of “Electronic Way” and the clunky deep grooves of the robotic “Placktuality”, complete with a breathy diva impression that creeps past seductive and into sleazy handily. That speaks to a huge part of the appeal of Plack Blague’s work; while you certainly get some camp and some vampy theatrics in the execution, these are real songs that reflect a lifestyle many artists in the genre allude to but few ever explore so fully. It’s why a song like “In The Name of Blague” feels so weirdly powerful, and self-actualizing, transmuting synths, sex, sweat and saliva into a bracing whole. Good stuff.