In the wake of streaming, album sales have plummeted and the music industry has all but gone digital. Such a shift has meant that music promotion and visual communications have inherited a new role that has far outgrown the limitations of traditional album artwork or music videos.
Technology has been a key player in pushing boundaries, from VR through to interactivity – something electronic music duo Plaid has embraced in the run up to the release of its new album, Polymer. The duo – comprised of Ed Handley and Andy Turner – has opened up its audiovisual world in a new platform named after the album, which has been designed by Isaac Cohen, AKA Cabbibo.
Upon entering the website, visitors are greeted with the same purple scuzzy matter that features in the slow-burning videos for Maru and Recall, both tracks from the forthcoming album. Press the ‘play’ button and you land on a screen comprised of pulsating geometric shapes, not unlike pixelated lemons, each associated with a particular ‘stem’ from the track Maru, which users can layer and trigger to ‘unlock’ the enigmatic Maru itself.
The website hands the reins over to visitors in a mesmerising experiment in interactivity. Somehow, even selecting sounds at random – either by hovering or clicking – reveals something cohesive as elements of the track are layered. Polymer is an open-source project, so anyone intrigued by the platform with a keen eye for code can explore it in further detail.
The design concept is based on the tension between the natural and the synthetic, a vital pillar of the new LP. “The problems and benefits of polymers felt like good themes for this album,” Plaid said of the upcoming release, “their repetitious strength, endurance and troubling persistence, the natural versus the synthetic, silk and silicone, the significant effect they have on our lives”.
Polymer is coming out on Warp Records, which has been releasing Plaid’s work for over 20 years.