Friday, September 14, 2007

Xploding Plastix - 2001 - Amateur Girlfriends Go Proskirt Agents

It's fascinating how an obscure electronica duo from Norway can promote itself so well across genres. I've seen reviews of this album not just in electronica circles but also in rock, jazz, prog, and even metal websites or magazines. Amateur Girlfriends Go Proskirt Agents garnered such high praise from such a diverse array of critics that it was re-released (as just Amateur Girlfriends) with bonus tracks, despite being released only three years prior in the first place.

So what's the big deal? This is an album chock-full of interesting and creative IDM-styled electronica: breakbeats, heavy sampling, all of it augmented with vaguely symphonic touches that perhaps have made it more appealing to prog fans than most electronic music. There are also live instruments played here and there, most notably keys and bass, but these are not the focal point of the album. The best tracks have an almost funky aggression in the bass, such as in the opening cut; or are heavily rhythmic and propulsive and would fit in well as the soundtrack to an action-packed movie car chase scene, such as in "Treat Me Mean, I Need the Reputation."

Points of comparison might include Amon Tobin or even Thievery Corporation with a more aggressive approach. There is a strong jazz influence running through the whole affair - hence the Amon Tobin comparison - making the music altogether more accessible to non-electronica fans than similar releases. In any case, it's interesting that prog fans picked up on this kind of electronic music as opposed to the more experimental, much more rhythmically challenging (or challenged) material of, say, Autechre. I suspect the band's relentlessly effective self-promotion has had something to do with this.

Taken for what it is, this is an impressively creative album, accessible to a broad range of tastes. It does lose some steam in the second half - the first six cuts are by far the most energetic and consistently interesting. But its broad appeal is probably not unwarranted, though I still maintain that fans of musical complexity have much more intriguing options to turn to in the electronica genre.

The album feels like it would be most at home on Ninja Tune, especially the Ninja Tune of 2001. The album is very strong and consistent, with no bad tracks at all.