Res Cogitans EP by Plumerai (Review)

Though not without its flaws, this EP is proof that Plumerai have things figured pretty well out.
Res Cogitans EP - Plumerai

I recently came to the realization that my musical tastes have remained virtually unchanged since high school. While I’m sure that many of my former classmates have dumped innumerable tapes and CDs at the local CD Warehouse, I still reach for those worn copies of Wish, Disintegration, and Violator with some regularity. And not just due to a sense of nostalgia, though there is some of that, nor because I’m ridden with angst (though there is some of that, too).

The simple truth is that I keep listening to those albums because I still find myself inspired and excited by them. They consistently prove to be much more rewarding and interesting than any number of new CDs that I pick up these days, even those that I might praise here on the site. And while some folks, for whom high school is a distant memory, might look on these albums with a tinge of embarassment, I’m not ashamed of these albums. I don’t consider them “guilty pleasures” in the slightest, nor do I ever get that “what was I thinking?” sense whenever I pull one off the shelf and slide it into the player.

At the risk of projecting my own musical development (or lack thereof) onto others, I suspect that the folks in Plumerai are much the same way. After all, one can hear the effects of many hours curled up with Disintegration and Pornography all over the 4 songs on the Res Cogitans EP. However, the band is not completely slavish in their devotion to such hallowed sounds, nor are they caught up in unnecessary nostalgia.

While the basslines, wiry, chiming guitars, and synthesizer lines do conjure up all that is good and golden from early ’80s British post-punk (case in point, “Linear”), the song structures are a bit more expansive, owing a debt to shoegaze pop. However, vocalist Elizabeth Ezell is no fey chanteuse; her voice contains a snarling sensuality not unlike that of P.J. Harvey or Insides’ Kirsty Yates.

Res Cogitans is a little uneven and rough around the edges. There are times where a greater sense of economy would be nice; opening track “Avernal” stalls in the final two minutes with an accordion-driven finale that feels a bit out of place. And while it’s nice in this day and age of overproducing and studio fakery to see a band forgo any sense of studio polish and record everything live, especially a band as atmospherically-minded as Plumerai, a little polish and overdubbing is not an absolute evil. There are times where the bass-prominent sound gets muddy, where Ezell’s voice isn’t as clear and piercing as it should be, where transitions within songs stumble a bit.

But at their core Plumerai have things figured pretty well out, especially when Ezell’s shivering voice sidles up against “En Vole“ s sparse guitars and Parisian accordions, or the band weaves some chilled vibes and a John Barry-esque melody into “Illuminata.” An album is forthcoming sometime in 2007, and one hopes that the EP’s flaws are simply due to the band working out some kinks in their sound. If honed properly, Plumerai could have something really solid and eclectic — seriously, who incorporates accordion into post-punk? — on their hands come next year.