As is usually the case when a new album arrives bearing the name Cevin Key, Plateau's sophomore effort, Space Cake, was greeted with a good deal of hype and anticipation. Info leaked from an inside source told the masses exactly what everyone wanted to hear, Space Cake was going to be quite a bit different than Plateau's poorly-received first album, Music For Grass Bars. For the most part that's true, but Plateau hasn't made a complete departure from their original vibe.
For starters, Space Cake has the same mind-altering, euphoric beat effect as Music For Grass Bars. With deep funk basslines that sound as though they've been pulled from some gritty blaxploitation flick of the '70s, you can almost smell the marijuana haze that undoubtedly filled the studio when Key, Phil Western and company set to work on this album. If you listen to it long enough, Plateau's music will put your head in the clouds even if the only drug you're on came in a can of Pepsi. This time around though, Plateau is far less repetitive and the Detroit house influence of the first album is far less dominant. As pointless and out of place as they may seem, even a few vocals turn up on a couple tracks. Fans of Collide may recognize the voice of Karin. Despite the changes, Key and Western had no intentions of turning Plateau into Download Jr. Space Cake is quite a bit different than the warped IDM experimentalism of Download's first two albums, Furnace and The Eyes of Stanley Pain, and the melancholy ambience of III. It's certainly light years away from Key's days with Skinny Puppy. I get the impression Plateau has become Key and Philth's late night jam session mode, something they have a lot of fun with but aren't as focused on as they are with Download.
What may come as a major disappointment for many is the fact that there really are very few overpowering, climatic moments or truly standout tracks on Space Cake. It's pretty much a relaxed ride straight through from start to finish. But if you consider that the name of this project means a high, flat land, it becomes rather obvious that this absence of peaks and valleys was completely intentional. Of course many will overlook this point and dismiss Space Cake the way they did Music For Grass Bars. The fact that anything Key touches is automatically held to a much higher standard than the work of almost everyone else doesn't help much either.
Space Cake won't rack up as many miles on my CD player as most of Key's other projects, but it'll hold me over until the next Download or Tear Garden album.
contact: Subconscious Communications - http://www.jps.net/ckey.
Barry D. Scheffel email@example.com
In 1997, cEVIN Key, Phil Western and Anthony Valcic released Music For Grassbars. Not long after that, Key promptly noted that the album was done in as little as 3 or 4 weeks and that the next platEAU album would be much more complex. Two years later, we have the latest product from the band, (minus Anthony Valcic).
spacEcakE lives up to Key's predictions. It is almost impossible to miss the fact that the album shares little with it's earlier sibling. It varies from song to song, in mood and atmosphere. Remaining true to the previous incarnation of the project, are the house-style elements that are lightly strewn throught the album. Multiple listenings are sure make the listener aware of these.
Many have picked up on cEVIN's 'download jr.' line, referring to the new platEAU, and said that it fits the bill. This may be the truth. The first album was simple in comparison and spacEcakE certainly is more varied in style. With that in mind, it is important to remember that Key and Co. never repeat themselves the way most bands do. In fact, if they had done an album very much like their first, I would have been disappointed. Key has, of late, showed us a lighter side of himself and this may disappoint those wishing for a more aggressive piece of work. Like 'III', spacEcakE is of a lighter nature, although it may succeed on other levels. You almost get the sense that they had more fun making this CD than the other and that is the strength of the album. As a whole, I think it is a perfect mixture of Philth and Key, combining cEVIN's drums and electronics with Phil's synths and bass work. Once again, the folks at subConscious Studios have given us another strong electronic album and I can't thank them enough.
In general, I think this is a rather strange album in the sense that a little bit of every Subconscious project seems to have found it's way into this new form platEAU has taken. There are some tracks that would fit perfectly a Doubting Thomas album or "III"...and there are tracks that can only be described as Download Jr. from the Stanley Pain era. Overall, a very satisfying CD.... sorta like a Subconscious music buffet...
Really, I think this and III seem to be more about Key and Philth making music rather than what project they're current supposed to be representing. All this said and done, on with the track by track analysis.
1. Jack hErrEr - Nice way to start the CD. It has the time out of joint sound that I associate with platEAU, then out of nowhere these d/l-esque drums come it... very nice.
2. NaM - spacey, bouncy number that's nice and complex. I love the percussion on this track....sort of "the-cannibals-are- nearby, Tarzan" sort of a thing going on. very platEAU.
3. bluEbErry - Now this is the track in which I always find myself spacing out to. It sounds like platEAU through a "III" filter, if you catch the bad Photoshop reference.
4. nocruisin - The shit. This is the track that made me sit up and go, "Oooo. Hello Download Jr." You haven't really heard this track until you've turned it up obnoxiously loud on your car stereo. I think it's probably the most memorable track on the entire album. The voices around 2:15 are great... neat-o mindbending fun.
5. supEr silvEr hazE - Odd song with odd treatment of female vocals (by Karin from Collide, I believe). Honestly, I first cringed when I heard there were female vocals on it, but these ain't no KMFDM female vocals, folks. I like it, but the song is a bit long, I think.
6. the search - nice, airy track. Reminiscent of something off of Music for Cats or the Doubting Thomas song "Movie 13".
7. K2 - compliments track 6 very nicely, and again no beat for this track. It doesn't have an ominous tone like a Doubting Thomas track, however. It's actually kind of tranquil.
8. de Fog - wakes ya back up. Very Philth-y... probably the second most memorable track on the entire album for me. About 4 minutes into it, weird drums come in that make me feel like I'm outta joint with time, and then a minute or so later it slows down and brings me back to earth.
9. phuket - Very MFC-ish. And actually, it reminds me of Coil's latest album Musick to Play in the Dark, oddly enough.
10. crEaturE - an upbeat track with more female vocals. While the vocals are a little more conventional, they are well intigrated into the song... nice track.
11. spacEcakE - Hello Download Jr. Nice drums...
12. bon bon bient - this track totally belongs on III.... nice.
13. creeper - I like this track a lot. I think in the long run, this will turn out to be my favorite track on the album. Freaky noises good.
14. 30 daze - this song is upbeat, so much so that I'd almost describe it as happy. III-ish, especially at the end of the track.
15. satchel - very doubting thomas. I like.
16. On the plat - This track seems to function to remind the listener that this is in fact a platEAU album, despite what you've just heard for the last hour. Needless to say, it's very platEAU and a nice way to end the CD; albeit it's somewhat abrupt.
Overall, this release makes me really, really hungry for the next Download album... if platEAU, the project that's supposed to be laid back, sounds like this, I can't wait to hear the monster that Download has mutated into.
My only negative criticism of the whole thing is the artwork... Phith's photos are really nice, but I don't think the cover image is a strong enough one to serve as the cover. I definitely support the less is more school of thought when it comes to artwork(except the whole stupid Minimalist movement...har har...contradiction is fun), but I think there should be something more eye catching on the cover. The back of the CD is nice with the window frame actually framing the track list. I like what looks like an oil or acrylic painting on the inside, and I question if maybe that shouldn't have been the cover... oh well. We don't buy CDs/records for the artwork.
PlatEAU is one of the collaborative efforts of Phil "Philth" Western (Download, Off and Gone) and cEvin Key (Download, ex-Skinny Puppy). The aptly titled 1997 debut album, "Music for Grass Bars", was the minimal, trance inducing product of improvised jam sessions. "Spacecake" is obviously more carefully programmed, sequenced and molded into shape. It still maintains the mellow, tranced out groove feel of the first album only with more variety and texture. Key and Western touch on a little bit of everything here: techno, ambient, noise, trance, funk, house ... you name it and it's probably blended in here somewhere. It sounds to me like a blend of "III"-era Download, Phil Western's solo (see "The Escapist") and "Off and Gone" work, the German Chain Reaction label's minimal ambient and techno styling and a bit of Doubting Thomas' more ominous, soundscape-y pieces. In other words it's just about perfect for an electronic music aficionado like myself. Most tracks are beat driven, with the exception of a few ambient excursions: "The Search", "K2", "Bon Bon Bient", "Satchel" and the final minute or so of "De Fog" and "30 Daze". The others have beats varying from a standard four on the floor to the more complex poly rhythms typical of Download. As usual per Key and Western, the synth and sample work is amazing, all seamlessly programmed and sequenced together into something new and invigorating. My only minor gripes: Karin's unnecessary and slightly annoying guest vocals on "Super Silver Haze" and "Creature", and the track "Phuket" which tediously clicks along too long and doesn't really go anywhere. Still a solid album of electronic music. Key and Western are too talented for their own good, the next Download album should be a monster. "Spacecake" is definitely another candidate for my top 10 of '99 list ...
Met 135/Sub 018
Is this album by platEAU? After listening to 'spacE cakE' for a few weeks Iım not so sure.
Lets check the record. In 1997 platEAU consisted of three Vancouver based musicians Charles Spliff, Toko Emoko, and Bud Cuttings. Their first album 'Music For Grassbars,' with its trippy album cover and slow developing grooves, was considered 'Minimalist Electronic.' Fast forward to 1999 and platEAU has returned with a substantial facelift. Produced from the new LA Subconscious Studios and recorded under their proper names, cEvin Key and Philth (Phil Western) return without member Anthony Valcic. This is foreshadowing.
At first glance the 'dull by comparison' album cover gives no indication of what is contained within. With the first three tracks ('jack hErrEr', 'NaM' and 'bluE bErry') all seems to be as expected, ethereal, trippy and a bit more complex than past plateau music. Then track four, 'nocrusin,' hits; at first listen I grabbed the CD case to verify I was still listening to platEAU. Sorry folks, youıve been tricked, they stuck an unreleased track from Downloadıs 'The Eyes of Stanley Pain' in there. Well, that may not be true, but by the sound of it (sharp rhythm changes, driving beats, obvious cEvin Key quirky sounds) it sure could be. By the way, this track begs to be remixed, I need at least seven minutes of this please.
After 'nocrusin' the album slips back into platEAU form again. Ultra fine production and floating hypnotic music marks the next few tracks. Then 'de Fog' presents itself, with a smattering of real drums and inventive cuts this track could be either a driving platEAU single or a mellow Download cut. The same goes for other standouts 'crEaturE,' 'creeper' and '30 daze.'
The title track 'spacEcakE' is a good sampling of the album as a whole. Interesting beats, and classic Key sounds. It fits well played up front or in the background. You the listener can decide what form you want to hear it in.
Lets do some history. Download was formed to not be Skinny Puppy. platEAU became to not be Download. With the new platEAU taking on Download form at times, does this mean Download will evolve beyond its old shell? I suspect so. Remember, 'III' was certainly a departure from 'ESOP'.
In the end I was left wondering, is this album a sign of what platEAU is to become or what Download was? Either way I think weıll find out in year 2000. In the meantime be sure to pick up the most refreshing release from Subconscious since 'The Eyes Of Stanley Pain.' No Kidding.
Litany: Scott's Music News
Those marijuana madmen are at it again with another sublime platEAU release, entitled "Space Cake". Where Music For Grassbars rolled along with trance inducing, minimal, mostly improvised Tracks, "Space Cake" is comprised almost entirely of programmed/composed Tracks, while still maintaining the loose, mellow feel of its predecessor. It flies into territories well beyond MFGB, cEvin described it as "Download" Junior."
Written and recorded in cEvin's own Subconscious studios in about two months time, "Space Cake" is a mix of minimal deep house, spacey ambience, and general electronic weirdness. This disc is definitely an excellent addition to any electronic music fan's CD collection.
Track 1 - An off time bass line and squelchy feedback/distorted synthy thing congeal and meet up with into a rhythm that never actually solidifies. This is a real nice intro. has a bit of an underwater feel to it. the drums are real quirky, you feel that any second, its about to settle into a nice followable rhythm, and then boom... the track is over.
Track 2 - Starts out with a funky beat the quickly evolves into a rhythm reminiscent of the song "They're Coming To Take Me Away" along with swirling ambient synth sounds that give this track a dense, underwater sort of feel.
Track 3 - This Track is more along the lines of MFGB than the previous songs, but with a bit of a funkier feel.
Track 4 - I'd call this subatomic funk... if there was an acid driven neotechno funk party going on in the nucleus of an atom, this is what it would sound like. Starts out with a tweeky, filter slap bass sound. Odd noises, an almost trip hop beat, and what seems to me like some live drums add up add up to make this track pretty damn groovy. This is probably one of my favorites on the disc.
Track 5 - This track doesn't really seem to go anywhere, it just ambles along while female vocals pop in and out of the mix. Punctuated static, 808 tom drums, ambient strings, and a quirky rhythm make up the background for this song, which gradually fades into silence, and though it is interesting enough, there are far better Tracks on this CD.
Track 6 - Beautiful lead in to this song... relaxing washes of song, and a dark droney low oscillating bass sound creeps in and starts to take over.. some heavily delayed vocal sampled drift across the stereo field.
Track 7 - Starts off with a beautiful, tinkly melody....sounds like drops of water falling from the roof of a cave making music. Wonderfully ambient soundscape.
Track 8 - Pounding dance floor beat, and odd squelchy noises that make me want to shake my butt. This is a very strong Track. Perhaps goes on for a bit too long, but there is enough atmospheric variety to make it interesting.
Track 9 - Another one of the ambient pieces. Lots of spacey sci-fi sounds, and a bleep-blip-blop rhythm loop, with a wierd sample that sounds like Pinhead combing his hair. Repetitive and loopy, but quite nice.
Track 10 - Re-occurring female vocals pop up again here. A spacey four on the floor Track. Good background music, good dance music. There are better Tracks on here though.
Track 11 - Starts out with a slowish funkified house-y beat, and adds a bit of native percussion. Lush synth sounds wash in the background. Begins to fade into silence after about 3 minutes.
Track 12 - Here comes another burst of mellow ambience. Similar in feel to Track 7, a dripping melody, filtered strings, and heavy reverb. A very soothing track, beautiful.
Track 13 - Almost cartoon like noises start this Track off, which moves from quirky to almost aggressive, or as aggressive as platEAU ever gets. This song slowly builds and heavily processed vocal samples pop up in the mix.
Track 14 - Really smooth melodic bassline, thumping kick beat, and an almost klangy synth line. Great dance track. Bass line is damn catchy.
Track 15 - Another ambient Track. Slightly reminiscent of the end of "Suni C" on TEOSP [The Eyes Of Stanley Pain] (without the vocals of course). Filtered string like sounds and a very analogue sounding pad melody. Wraps itself around your head and slowly dissolves into the air, sliding smoothly into the next, final, track.
Track 16 - cEvin and company have always known how to end an album. This song opens up with a crunchy manipulated rhythm loop. The song stays fairly understated through its duration with twisting analogue pads and a soft hat sound. There are no heavy kicks or abrasive rhythmic noises. The song fades out non-chalantly, and it takes a few minutes for the brain to register the fact that the album is over.
Overall, despite a few inconsistencies, I think this is an incredibly strong album. Flows nicely from Track to Track, and every song, even the weaker ones, manages to maintain interest levels. Whether you're chillin' with da green guy or kicking back stone cold sober, "Space Cake" is a great album to fly along with.
Exclusive review - June 1999.
Bill The Boy, for
Last Sigh Magazine
cEvin Key can seem to do no wrong. With his latest project, platEAU, cEvin is joined by Phil Western (aka Philth of Off and Gone) and Anthony Valcic. Music For Grass Bars is just as the title suggests; ambient structured music that can be used for mind altering purposes. Now since Key is involved you can bet that these isn't your average ambient tunes. A bit more chaotic and a lot less structured than typical ambient music, these pieces come close to sounding like tamed Download songs. Schipol is a short, beatless piece that gradually draws the listener into the musical domain that platEAU have created. Soft ebbing synth patterns that sound as if they are drifting through space give way to a distant pounding drum that gradually nears as Noordelight takes over where Schipol leaves off. A slight similarity to eighties styled percussion is joined with tribal drum patterns and swirling keyboard effects as Noordelight builds itself up. The keyboards drift out of earshot and the various drum patterns take over for the remainder of the piece. Dutch Flowers (which will soon have an EP all its own) is a cyber-enhanced ambient piece with gritty synth pulses and a tumultuous thumping beat. In several places this track changes ever so slightly, making it stand out from the normally repetitive ambient genre. Crypto is a clangy composition with a metallic beat joined by a plethora of distinctly different noises that come and go. Another track that has some peculiar noises and sound effects added in is Chateau Plateau. This piece also boasts a rubbery percussion line and sci-fi sequences. Purple Passion is an airy piece with ethereal sequences that wash in and out underneath the strict techno beat. Every single tune on this CD has something to it that makes it stand out, whether it be the manipulated beats, the dreamy sequences, or the odd noises. Music For Grass Bars is yet another amazing work of art by a group of individuals who know how important it is to be unique.
The brilliance of cEvin Key and company continues on this new Plateau single. Taken off of the full length, Dutch Flowers is remixed and extended for maximum listening pleasure. Consisting of a hollow drum beat, scratchy electronics, half hidden samples, and sequences straight out of the depths of the universe, Dutch Flowers is a perfect wind down track for all the late night clubgoers. Another track from Music For Grass Bars, White Window, was also remixed for this CD-5. This track also utilizes the scratchy effects to the electronics and also applies it to the beat. Whereas the beat on Dutch Flowers was harder and deeper, the beat on White Window is less harsh and not as prominent. Two unreleased tracks, Kronkel and Citral, are beat driven experimental tracks, each with a variety of unique and pleasurable sounds. Both give the impression of being caught within the circuitry of a computer gone haywire. Philth's Off and Gone influences are noticeable throughout the entire single, as is Key's unconventional approach to sequencing. The new Download should be out before the year's end, but why want until then to hear what these Canadians have to offer.
Music For Grass Bars
On the opening track "Schipol," some sort of triangle slowly appears in the soundscape, followed by a beautiful soothing melodic loop. The whole track could be viewed upon as an intro. No beats or drums. Very relaxing.
Boom...boom ...boom...a very plain drum takes over on "Noorderlight." Hi hat plus handclaps is added, and makes me think of house music songs made back in the eighties, and then again not. The beat/rhythm keeps altering. Not much, but still enough to avoid the track getting annoyingly repetitive. The melody from the previous track carries us a long way into the song.
A dominant beat is the backbone of "Dutch Flowers." On top of it is an improvised random kling-klang of a synth that sounds a bit like the one Richard Kirk is so fond of on his newer songs. Echo comes and goes. Go with the flow. Still, awkward little sounds/noises are added and a really powerful one comes in during the last 30 seconds.
Immediately on to the next song! There is no break between "Dutch Flowers" and "Crypto." This is more up beat and complex, which really captures my attention. A complex rave track is the best way I can describe it. "Crypto"+smoke+strobes could easily do the job at a rave party.
"White Widow" starts off with a rolling beat made up of some impossible-to-describe sound. I recognize a sound effect Skinny Puppy used at the very end of "Punk In Park Zoo," as if Key was playing that sample on his drums. A quite funny quack from a duck is simulated with an odd knob on an old keyboard, I'm sure. The whole song is kind of messy but that's the trademark of the Subcon guys. Great ending, the whole thing slows down, goes into a loop and fades down.
"Urban Chillage" or Exploration of a bass drum. On top of that a hi hat and some guitar sounds too, I think. Halfway the beat changes in a totally unpredictable way, and once more at the end just before it fades out. I think this was only 5 minutes of a much longer studio improvisation. One of the more complex songs so far.
"Chateau platEAU" slowly builds up a hypnotic beat which changes from time to time. I don't notice it, unless I pay specific attention to it. They play with noises on top of the beat, some are random others form a pattern. A really cheesy synth comes in at one point and has a middle-eastern atmosphere to it. I can't help but smile.
I think Key plays his drumosaurus on "The Kind." Complex patterns of beats and noises -- a very layered song. Almost Download-like. It still has the overall minimalistic sound to it. No rough edges is perhaps a better way to describe it.
"Superskunk #3" is basically fun with a drum machine. No regular, well known beats (read danceable) of course. I don't know what else really to say about this one.
A great loop introduces "Purple Passion." There's a floating texture to this song not seen on the other tracks so far. Beautiful. Still the boom-tshick-boom- tschick though, but not annoying at all.
"Stench" is unlike any of the previous tracks. Very Downloadesque. I simply love the way they play with rhythms. Lots of noise at the end, but still controlled until the very last second......and then the cd ends. My favorite song on the album.
Last Sigh Magazine
Music for grassbars
cEvin Key, Anthony Valcic and DJ Phil (Off & Gone etc.) alter the downloading in Vancouver's Subconscious Studio to produce a techno album for dancing and in the case of the more liberated European countries, sitting in a cafe and rolling a spliff to. If we could only get a few topless women to fight for that right here, we might have a similar freedom one day. Until then, you'll have to settle with the reproducing the menu of this disc's cool 3D "multi-Image" cover in the privacy of your own home while you mellow out of Plateau's mesmerising techno-house cuts like "Noorderlight" and the psychedelically phased "Urban Chillage" The stand-out track is the smooth but deep "Purple Passion", which will probably be an in-demand brand in the grassbars of Amsterdam soon, if not already.
(Exclaim! August 1997)
Music for Grassbars
(subConscious / Hypnotic)
A project featuring cEvin Key, Phil Western and Anthony Valcic, platEAU acts as a sharp contrast to the dense, improvisational sounds of the trio's main gig, Download. Moving away from Key's industrial roots, this disc consists mainly of stark and minimal electronics, influenced equally by the classic techno sounds of Detroit, and the classic pot parlours of Amsterdam (Key's current home away from home). Western's influence is much more pronounced here than in the work of Download, and many of the tracks have the same flavour as his other projects, Cap'm Stargazer and Off & Gone. Given the departure of Mark Spybey from the camp, perhaps we can expect a similar vibe to infiltrate Download's upcoming album, III.
(written for October/97 issue of Chart)
PLATeau Music For Grass Bars
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