Plinth – Collected Machine Music

Plinth – Collected Machine Music


Back in stock: Digipak run of 200 copies… This disc contains both remastered versions of the 8 songs that were on the ridiculously limited “Plays Victorian Machine Music” ep, that came out on the Rusted Rail label sometime back, and 7 new songs also created using old victorian music boxes, calliopes, and other wheezing mechanisms.

The philosopher, social critic and journalist Walter Benjamin once suggested that the assorted detritus of the 19th Century bourgeoisie – the knick-knacks, toys, trinkets, mechanical amusements, photographs – could, when “blasted” out of their original historical context as kitsch distractions by means of critical analysis, reveal something significant about both their own age and also that of the present. This notion developed into The Arcades Project, an extensive, wide-ranging exploration of bourgeois social history centred around the Parisian arcades.


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Social history and its political implications may not have been foremost in the mind of Michael Tanner, here releasing under the name Plinth, when he decided to make a collection of pieces using old Victorian music boxes, calliopes, wheezing mechanisms, and other antiquated contraptions. However, there nonetheless remains a sense in which the twinkling, huffing and whirring of these mechanical instruments is “blasted” out of historical dust and takes on new meaning. It is clear from the outset that the album is no mere stroll through the sepia streets of misty-eyed nostalgia, but instead sets out to investigate what can be created with these instruments now, using the techniques that modern composition and recording technology has made available.

For Tanner, this means looping the sounds, combining them across different musical keys, varying the speed at which the music box handles are rotated, and applying subtle effects such as reverb and volume mixing. The results sound both old and new at the same time – familiar without being clichéd, inventive without breaking the spell cast by the instruments’ historicity. To coax something fresh and imaginative from these instruments without turning them into dead museum exhibits is no mean feat, but Tanner manages to surprise and delight across the album’s fifteen tracks.

A must-listen for any fan of beautiful experimental music, regardless of their feelings towards the quaint and bizarre world of Victorian mechanical memorabilia. – Fluid Radio


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