Head-mess territory
Plank! - Live At Soup Kitchen, Manchester

Amidst very little hype, but plenty of “in the know” buzz, Plank! launched their new LP ‘Animalism’.

Where they got their name from is anyone’s guess and where they got their fan base is equally perplexing, as they seem to exist quite outside of the world of PR. Despite this, the Soup Kitchen basement was wall-to-wall full. You got the impression that those attending were inside some prog-rock clique; tickets were obtained on a “need to know” basis and the event organised by people with ‘Reservoir Dogs’ style pseudonyms.

Once Plank! began to play it was like a collage of cult movie dreams were being played out on stage as the Manchester based three-piece unraveled their unique brand of psychedelic, instrumental rock. They were completely unfussy with their execution. Producer Dave Rowe deftly flipped between guitar and keys – at all times straight faced and focused – while bassist Ed Troupe played tight-knitted lines while brooding in a darkened corner. Drummer Johnny Winbolt-Lewis provided the most animation, as he sat well lit by the video wall seemingly the only one really enjoying himself.

This all felt very suitable and despite Plank!’s heavy use of trad-rock monotony, they did everything they could to unsettle expectations. The rather impressive video backdrop – a huge addition considering the bands straight delivery – flashed fast-paced clips of lab monkeys, geometric shapes and mathematical equations. This, alongside their straight delivery confirmed that yep, we were in head-mess territory.

When they struck up ‘King Rat’ it played like road music from some super sonic space highway; heard through armchair sized ‘70s earphones. ‘Self Harm’ demonstrated their intense playfulness with time signatures with what appeared to be an alternate 5/4, 6/4 beat. ‘Pig Sick’ saw more tricksy timing with an even more complicated time signature that was hard to pin down. This time the repetitive ploddiness of the first half was lightened by some lovely electronic arpeggios in the second that gave the feeling Plank!’s sound would benefit from even more of these electronic intricacies.

This is probably why ‘Moo Licks’ was the highlight of the show. It demonstrated more of Rowe’s Foo Fighters-esque guitaring only here he alternated between shrill straight tones and crunchy Fleetwood Mac ‘Chains’ style heavier drones in a repetitious drive of a track. The treat came after a couple of minutes where Rowe got all Atari with his keyboard and rolled out a repetitious synth patterns interjected with random off notes that sounded like an ‘80s ‘Game Over’ sequence had gone A.W.O.L. This was both hypnotic and startling; a full on seven-minute synth rock fest.

During this, Plank! reinforced all-pervading psychedelia with some very interesting stage antics. The video wall seemingly came to life as the stage was invaded by a pig mask wearing randomer, who danced about, Red Stripe in hand. He was joined by another mask wearing oddity. Collectively they ended processions with euphoric hugs that saw them rolling about on stage seemingly exhausted by their antics.

On the whole Plank! sounded like the hybrid love child of Neu! and Creedence Clearwater Revival with serious A.D.H.D. locked in a room full of Red Stripe and synthesizers; and the crowd loved them for it.

Words and photo by Anne Louise Kershaw

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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