ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
I’m going to be straightforward here and proclaim Two Words, the debut project from Australian songwriter Francis Plagne and Canadian sound engineer Crys Cole, as one of the most unique and subversive releases of 2018. Eschewing the conventional structure of an LP, Two Words, is exactly what the title suggests— it’s a two-part, phantasmal composition held together by lucid textures and hissing ambiance.
Originally composed as a performance piece, the duo alongside Australian drummer-producer Joe Talia went back into the studio to rerecord. Along with the cryptic infusion of live mic’ing, layers of flute, percussion, and organ meld together to radiate a highly improvised demeanor and a serene sense of space. Eerily equivalent to the sound of crashing, collapsing waves, and the auditory sensation of cars speeding across a rainy freeway, this duo’s mystical electronic entanglements crackle and diffuse across 33 minutes. Some might find the completely instrumental Side A a bit monotonous and pointless at first, but the apparent aimlessness does, in fact, have a purpose—to position listeners into a spellbound and apprehended state until Side B commences. As the output of high/low frequencies bob and weave with one another and entrancing blips and creaks percolate their way through a realm of synthesized white noise, listeners are capsized by the very moment Plagne’s soothing spoken word vocals arrive. At the 19-minute mark, this interruption of complete drone proves to be a tender surprise—it’s the sonic equivalent to rationalizing your way through the confusion associated with waking up from a deep sleep in the middle of late afternoon. While Side A causes listeners to meander into a dewy, astral haze, Plagne’s words on Side B ground listeners back to reality—not in an abrupt way, but with a posture that is both pacifying and delicate. Nevertheless, Plagne pervades the absorbing mistiness of Two Words with a succession of semi-related couplets derived from a text by Berlin-based poet Marty Hiatt, “lens flare/ signal flare/ raw nerve/ anxiety suit…” It’s difficult to determine the significance of these abstracted thoughts, yet it's clear they operate perfectly within a surreal plain of sound. Though this project is incredibly unique, there’s nothing about this album that’s entirely futuristic, It’s lo-fi pastiche paired with Plagne’s inspirited recitation recalls the off-the-wall, home-grown sound and lyrical delivery of Daniel Johnston, while it’s field recording flair—creaks, cracks and all—will remind many of the late and great Arthur Russell. All this to say, there’s a constantly evolving nature about Two Words that go unnoticed with the first couple of spins.
Defying easy description, Plagne and cole’s debut endeavor is gorgeous and ever-flowing with intricacies that completely envelope. Two Words is an achievement in the structuring/restructuring of sound and the perplexing texturing of tones, but it is above all, a pleasant outcome of two contrasting minds attempting to bridge the gap between improvisation and intentionality.
THE 405 RATING: 8/10