By George Bass | 6 July 2009
I spy with my little eye something beginning with I. Italy. Iceland. IDM. Interesting. I also spy a definite trend in the recent n5MD roster, with each release featuring more organisms than its subsequent artificial brother. Those legendary platters of glitch now come with yummy gluten noodles, forks twisting up mouthfuls of loveliness. Mmmm, machines, and the ball gets passed on to Plastik Joy—a double-act formed by Fannar Ásgrimsson and Cristiano Nicolini; Reykjavik and Rome colliding. To some it doesn’t matter where the originators hail from—the label have cracked the art of making homesick tones sing out, after all—but these two are a noteworthy exception. If you can find a record that better unites digital Icelandic witchcraft with Mediterranean chill, that better defines “bittersweet” than 3:03 this summer, for Christ’s sake put me on to your otologist. I don’t think I could sense anything more sunny or meditative than this happy bundle of pain.
What Nicolini and Ásgrimsson have come up with is basically Easy Listenin’ without the apostrophe: robots lisping with gusto. Across an hour they weave fibre-optic folk into ambient shadows and make little dead legs for your ears—pumping, warm, tingly, innocent. I don’t know how they do it exactly (especially when they’re working against type—it’s the Italian here with the digital witchcraft; the Icelander playing the instruments) but the move works well, and it’s a mixed but personalised bag of sparks they serve up for their recording debut. “True Norwegian Black Metal,” for example, is obviously nothing of the kind, just serene evening tabs and druggy guest-lyrics flowing into the mayhem of “Medispiace” rather nicely. That one’s a definite booby trap, exploding from spoken word to rock din like only the European eccentrics know how (hands up, M83). Outside of this, 3:03 is more to do with calm guitar moods and ethereal lounge than it is with pulling stunts, so you can leave it on should any unexpected guests turn up. The melted motorways/bravely crumbled lullaby of “63 (She Was Trying To Sleep, I Was Trying To Breathe)” will have them all banding the Sigur Rós-isms round, Ásgrimsson playing to his roots, and “Twenty-ninth of April”‘s sad frets and computer tremors fall like August rain. Simple. Easy. Listening.
The best bit is, though, no matter how close to precious things become, the fairies and rainbows never once dare show themselves. Plastik Joy dispel icky syrup by writing honesty into 3:03: good moods collapse, bad ones fade out. This constant alteration makes them hard to second-guess, so you might come away a little exhausted by the end. If you’re in the bath and “Medispiace” hits you can expect to get the mop out, especially if you got in to the plush fug of “Sleepy Quest for Coffee” salted with keys and ocean swell. Bastards. I didn’t come away exhausted, though: all of the eleven tracks have got a magic that sticks like a dream, polishing the world for when you come back up again. With that in mind, 3:03 won’t be much use if you need something to quickly scowl at before going to crack some skulls, but for fast-acting hypnosis or an antidote to daily turmoil, it’s perfect. If Plastik Joy can eclipse this then they’re bound for some some major Year End lists; as it is, I’ll just keep them safe for mine—them and most of their labelmates. n5MD have once again concocted a project that’s nothing short of lovely.