Plaid are a happy-face band on an eclectic, edgy roster. Besides being full of playful loops and basslines, their music has a compositional warmth of spirit seemingly foreign to lauded "digital geniuses" and Warp labelmates Autechre, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin.
Initially making their mark as two-thirds of the darker and less dance-oriented Black Dog Productions, Ed Handley and Andy Turner began recording Plaid tracks to brighten their own artistic headspace, then continued to unleash random ultra-limited singles under aliases such as Atypic, Balil and Tura.
Trainer's two CDs amass all these early bits and pieces into a fun-to-funky compilation that proves not only that so-called "intelligent techno" doesn't also have to be difficult, but that it also can get its groove on, to boot. The compilation's 26 tracks also show that the duo's feel-good vibe was present from the get-go, even as they were framing Black Dog's moody expanses.
The 1991 Mbuki Mvuki EP, making its CD debut here, is divine dancefloor minimalism. "Scoobs in Columbia" (RealAudio excerpt) features all the ingredients necessary for classic teched-up, Latin-flavored grooves: horns blaring, piano clusters chomping and breaks that are firmly in the driver's seat.
Various textures echo these positive sonic vibes throughout the collection, from the dreamlike underwater ambiance of "Eshish" (RealAudio excerpt) to the hyperactive metallic skank of "Uland" (RealAudio excerpt) to the faux "Mission Impossible"-goes-Depeche-Mode-electro of "Tan Sau" (RealAudio excerpt). This is "Sesame Street" techno at its finest, with all of the varied educational good times and none of the kitsch.