For their first new music in a number of years, Plank have taken their inspiration from the plight of the planet’s oceans, a subject that every one of us should be concerned about. In a sharp and concise 36 or so minutes of instrumental progressive post rock wonderment, they have managed to say a lot about what makes the seas so epic and mysterious, so desolate and beautiful, so fragile and important. The fact that the core of the band is just three musicians is surprising when there is so much going on at once, despite the relative simplicity of the ideas. Repeated listening reveals previously unnoticed nuances and hidden depths to their musical voyage.
Also surprising is that the band hail from landlocked Todmorden, although I guess they must’ve visited the coast from time to time! Anyway, what of the music? The band consist of Dave Rowe on guitars and synth, Ed Troup on bass, and Liam Stewart on drums, and they have produced a record of striking modern prog which chimes well with the times, being short but sharply focussed; every moment is a quality moment, and the vistas they evoke seems so real. Opener Three Seascapes has a sprightly guitar picked double-tracked intro with throbbing bass and a wash of keys underpinned with sharp drumming. The guitar plays the melody, and we are in a rather Discipline era Crimsonesque sound world. It’s very hummable and memorable, and a fine introduction. Dead Zone by contrast has a repeated synth pattern running through it, interrupted by harsh guitar slashes before the heavier riffing gets underway. After these initial salvos, more ominous keyboards give an air of being lost at sea, and the power and darkness of the ocean becomes apparent. This is much more post-rock flavoured, with shades of Long Distance Calling or Elder as possible influences.
Volta Do Mar takes a more dramatic turn, from a gentle and pretty intro enhanced by Dan Bridgewater-Hall’s violin, we head into choppier waters with powerful chords suggesting a change in the weather. If this review sounds like the shipping forecast, that’s fine because the album is all about the sea and how it changes with the weather, how it is an all encompassing entity in its own right, and how it deserves respect. Dave Rowe’s guitar sounds are so varied as he shifts from delicacy to bombast or squealing lead breaks and back again effortlessly. Longshore Drift has another synth loop running through it, which works beautifully contrasting the crashing waves of guitar chords as the beach is battered by the elemental forces. To me, this is a very visual album, perfectly painting a picture of the various moods of the ocean, ever changing, shifting and unsettling.
The second half of the album comprises the centrepiece Breaking Waves, which is either one epic piece of music over 16 minutes, or a six-part series of vignettes depending how you look at it. I think of it as one continuous piece ebbing and flowing, moving inexorably towards its powerful climax, via a couple of wonderfully evocative sections of calmer water. It really does seem like the shortest 16-minute epic I’ve heard in a long time; it’s ever-shifting textures full of interest and invention, and with a fully satisfying conclusion devoid of any of the usual prog cliches. I’ve listened to it time and time again now, and I’m not remotely tired of it.
Overall, this is a mature and sophisticated album, but with power and style that thrills the listener, and I would thoroughly recommend giving Plank a listen. Now, if they could just be enticed to play some live shows further afield than Manchester, a few more music fans around the country might get a taste of what they’re missing.
01. Three Seascapes (3:37)
02. Dead Zone (3:54)
03. Red Tide (3:03)
04. Volta Do Mar (4:43)
05. Longshore Drift (4:26)
06. Breaking Waves – Part 1 (4:27)
07. Breaking Waves – Part 2 (1:45)
08. Breaking Waves – Part 3 (1:40)
09. Breaking Waves – Part 4 (2:20)
10. Breaking Waves – Part 5 (2:10)
11. Breaking Waves – Part 6 (3:30)
Total Time – 35:35
Dave Rowe – Guitars, Synthesisers
Ed Troup – Bass
Liam Stewart – Drums
Dan Bridgewater-Hall – Violin (tracks 4 & 6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 20st January 2023