In 2008, M83 released their fifth studio album, the Brat Pack electro-love letter,Â Saturdays=Youth. Before my first listen, I had already gotten wind thatÂ SaturdaysÂ was a departure for Gonzalez and co.- there were rumors that the record was an organic sounding homage to John Hughes-esque memories and ideologies. It all sounded very conceptual and cinematic- even for M83. My endless anticipation seemed like a recipe for an immense letdown; and of course, thatâ€™s exactly what happened.
The moderate disappointment I felt towardsÂ SaturdaysÂ has dissipated thanks to repeated listening- though I still have the same issues with the album. Most notably, it doesnâ€™t flow as well as it should, the transitions from Reagan-era teenybopper to hardcore synth-based stuff is overly jarring, large stretches of it wander around for tracks at a time- but I have grown to accept these flaws because I have had time to separate my expectations from reality. Needless to say, the debut albumÂ PlantationÂ from Arrange is everything I was hoping for inÂ Saturdays=Youth. And perhaps a little bit more.
A self-released solo affair from artist Malcom Lacey,Â Plantation, is truly an album of vivid, heartbreak- quite possibly one of the most beautifully tragic albums since The Antlersâ€™Â Hospice. Instrumentals flow into post-rock chord progressions that give way to tasteful ambient crescendos. A large portion ofÂ PlantationÂ sounds like post-modern Explosions in the Sky, albeit with painful, whispery M83-esque vocals. Similar toÂ Hospice, Arrange sets up the listener with a couple of vague, meandering tracks before suddenly dropping on us a gutpuncher of emotional clarity.
Here it is called â€œWhenâ€™d You Find Meâ€, a song that begins as slow as molasses and somehow seems to getÂ slower- before finally giving way to a tight riff and subtle, uptempo synth beat. From this point forward, the listener is guided on a relentless trip of warmth and perspective. Obviously this was a personal work for Malcolm Lacey (letâ€™s hope it is- if not, the world may not be ready for someone so casually sensitive). But the major difference between this album and other works of artistic intimacy is the level of precision brought to the table. While the listener is invested in the experience from the start,Â PlantationÂ never overplays its hand. Lacey avoids abusing their trust even during the albumâ€™s most memorable moments- the grandiose â€œTearing Up Old Asphaltâ€ and the upbeat â€œBlinds With Youâ€. We want to dig into the album deeper, perhaps find the cause of itâ€™s suffering. But Lacey keeps things tastefully distant and restrained. Itâ€™s to the credit of Arrange thatÂ PlantationÂ is frequently cathartic, but never overwrought- a delicate balance that is harder to achieve than most would believe.