The third in their nature trilogy of albums sees Plank plunge into aquatic depths. Gareth Thompson puts his ear to the water.
More humans have walked on the moon than have visited the extreme depths of our oceans. Maybe their unexplored mysteries are what draws us to their shores, to gaze and wonder. The rhythmic quality of waves and our mental well-being are known to be linked. But even beyond that, the oceans are a vital part of climate control in managing our weather patterns, water supplies and oxygen.
The third album from northern English band Plank takes all these issues to heart. Future of the Sea is an instrumental work, but one which valiantly evokes the current crises facing marine life. Rachel Carson’s nature writings inspired the band’s founder David Rowe, then after his dog knocked his guitar out of tune Rowe created some new riffs. Thus was the album born and a dynamic work of underwater spellcasting it is. Rowe’s swirling synths and swashbuckling guitars swim and thrash in a ravey undertow. Liam Stewart’s drumming pounds away like a hammerhead, while Ed Troup’s bass guitar mutters thunder. There’s a retro-proggy element for sure, some of it worth a good headbang, but it’s all presented in pin-sharp deluxe sound.
‘Three Seascapes’ opens things with twitchy guitar lines and percussion, sweeping into a magical voyage that could soundtrack a Studio Ghibli film. (There’s even an anime quality to Jake Blanchard’s cover artwork, where a mediaeval Atlantis lurks below the waves). ‘Dead Zone’ growls with a sharkish hunger over pomp keyboards, ‘Red Tide’ has a savage energy, before ‘Volta Do Mar’ blows these rocky surges into a stormy symphony. If the names of Plank’s pieces seem designed to steer you along one course, then don’t be fooled. Each track title is an invitation not an instruction; a life-raft for our own dreams and visions to float on.
‘Longshore Drift’ continues the journey with more angular pulsings as Stewart employs a jazz-like nous to hold everything fast. Finally, the sixteen minutes of ‘Breaking Waves’ steer us through Rowe’s misty strums and blaring foghorn riffs, amid the cold-sweat thrills of his band’s collective vision. Yet for all their rock operatics, Plank’s heritage maybe owes as much to The Future Sound Of London as it does to Hawkwind. You could throw LNZNDRF, Circle and Shearwater into the mix, alongside a current wave of Nordic fusion acts such as Rymden, Elephant9 and Exoterm. But this album’s overriding messages remain key — how the worship of progress leads to ruination, how our global thermostat is racing. We emerge from Plank’s waters enthralled and enlivened, following their chart of wisdom and hope.
Released by Golden Lion Sounds, Plank’s ‘Future Of The Sea’ is out now.