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Most Plums compositions are elementally appealing: Drums pound and guitars swell. Everything generally heads along the same vector. Boom. Surge. Satisfaction. But if you’re looking for a band to have and to hold, forget it: The Arlington/D.C. noise-rock group hardly ever plays the same thing twice. That’s not a good template for putting out records, because if every hook is completely ephemeral, if every note is an evolution, which chunks of sound are the most important or essential? Who should make that choice? Should there even be a product?
That’s probably why the Plums waited so long to put anything on wax. And their solution is elegant: They took every recording they’ve got—PA tapes, basement jams, etc.—and extracted pieces that represent what the band has become over the past decade. They fit it all together on a nine-track double-vinyl album with a plain white sleeve, because the sound is all that matters. The White LP isn’t a ponderous retrospective or an arty mishmash, however. It simply showcases a core group of musicians—Many Spaceships (drums, electronics), Martha Hamilton (guitar), Marc Masters (bass, keyboards), and P.J. Brownlee (guitar, electronics)—who enjoy going from point A to point B together. Loudly. (Jeff Barsky, aka Insect Factory, also became an official member a few years ago and appears on a few cuts.)
Of course, there’s a 25-minute epic(“Sigmar Polke”) that starts with some itchy, free-jazz-style doodling and ends with a passionate punk rave-up. Because that’s what noise bands do. They also do bursts of complete distortion, in this case, the album-closing freakout “Bigend.” But the other seven offerings are far more tidy, and they tend to fall somewhere among Lungfish’s meditative riffing, krautrock’s unidirectional tension, and Sonic Youth’s cloudbursts. Rhythm is almost always the center of gravity, and the album’s first section—“Get the Rush” and “Gumption,” in particular—offers multiple examples of how noisemongers can stay locked in without getting dull.
Elsewhere, “Das Boot in das Wasser” is all psych fuzz and monster stomp, “False Irishman” sounds like a grandly wasted Pavement-era afternoon, and at least one song, “Showbiz Whine,” becomes downright majestic. Its chiming chords and patient groove are the sound of band that doesn’t want to stop playing—or maybe can’t stop playing. The Plums definitely should keep playing.