Huerco S.: Plonk

One Plonk’s most striking aspects is Leeds’ Escher-esque approach to rhythm and song structure, with repetitive loops often taking a backseat to translucent drift and illusory syncopation. The first two tracks are percussive without relying on a pulse; in fact, they forgo almost any hint of a steady tempo. “Plonk I” opens with flickering beads of sound tapping at the ears like droplets hitting a windowpane, and they become more insistent, but never more coherent, as the first track develops. Tessellating pulses of synthesizer detonate at irregular intervals before evaporating into hiss and bassy rumble on “Plonk II,” punctuated by expectant periods of dead silence. Only as “Plonk III” ramps up is there any semblance of rhythmic continuity, and with a rush of drum machine the music becomes a multi-dimensional current of interlocking grooves.

Plonk follows a parabolic arc, with the highest energy tracks all clustered near the center of the album. The meatiest, most propulsive zone, primarily concentrated in “Plonk III” and “Plonk IV,” consists of dazzling rhythmic workouts that draw on Leeds’ experience as a peak-time DJ but maintain the unwavering asymmetry of the album’s expository tracks. Textural layers whirl and collide in tandem with melodic synth lines and seemingly autonomous drum patterns that reconfigure themselves every few bars. These tracks reference various corners of the zeitgeist—traces of melodic IDM, atmospheric glitch, dread-laden trap, and the psychedelic bounce of trance are all present—but ultimately they are subservient to the grand, vividly rendered swirl.

Even the steady unraveling that occurs during the album’s second half is full of surprises and sharp left turns. After a couple digressions into low-lit, downtempo loops (some of the most uncomplicated, undemanding productions on the album), Leeds brings in rapper Sir E.U, a linchpin of Washington, DC’s experimental hip-hop scene, for “Plonk IX.” E.U is a perfect foil for Leeds; both make music that is playful, skewed, and profound, but where Leeds’ productions feel meticulous, E.U follows every lyrical tangent as they occur to him. A kick drum fires sporadically, accenting E.U’s whimsical flow, while garbled synths cluster around his voice like bees on honeycomb. Ending the album with the silky ambient flutter of “Plonk X” feels almost as provocative. After 50 minutes of intricate and off-kilter head trips, its gentleness, recalling some of the most blissful moments of For Those of You, is disarming.

Plonk shows Leeds evolving in real time as he throws an abundant number of very sticky ideas at the wall. Its most cohesive element is the onomatopoeia that gives the album its name, which appears in various forms: Sometimes it’s a literal clank of metal, other times a synthetic scrap of errant sound that whizzes by. But the record’s multiplicity results in a strange kind of approachability, with each errant turn inviting us to hear what those obscure corners of the music have to say. To give in slightly and breathe some life back into Leeds’ car metaphor, perhaps this music provides a safe, impeccably designed environment in which to traverse those unknown spaces; at its heart, this is music about and for the daily explorations that offer new perspectives on the world. In that sense, Plonk is nothing if not transportive.


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Updated: February 25, 2022 — 12:00 pm