People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz – Perpetuum Mobile

5 out of 5

Label: Soleilmoon Recordings

Produced by: People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz (presumably)

The best PLU albums, to me, have a strong line of musicality running throughout, as opposed to relying mostly on the mash-up of samples. Obviously sampling is still the name of the game, but by giving the main thrust of the track a more consistent melody, Vicki Bennett’s ear for finding rhythm in randomness is given even greater support; depending on the “tone” of what’s being sampled, we get really close to kitschy pop music. And it can be delightful.

Teamed up with Ergo Phizmiz on Perpetuum Mobile, this is PLU (and Ergo) at their most accessible, with touches of goofiness partnered with tracks that can be quite sincerely beautiful – A Bastard’s Waltz – or veer into moodier territory that you might find as some interstitial instrumental on a post-rock band’s album somewheres, like Flanagan’s Wake. On the whole, this sets the album in the company of slinky groovesters like Stereolab; you could absolutely sell this to someone whose listenings are in that vein, without having to provide any qualifiers up front.

But if Stereolab’s not your shtick – they’re not mine – there’s absolutely much PLU to love here, with the usual wide swath of outre TV / radio samples married to swinging musical themes, and a sort of over-arching nursery rhyme vibe that gives the album a kindness and familiarity; Vicki isn’t pushing the repetition as hard, here, and definitely stays away from more atonal sounds. When the former does get amped up, it’s done “tastefully,” and not at length. How much of this is Ergo’s influence I’m not sure, but the combination is wonderful: incredibly varied, engaging, and fun, but not necessarily silly and not overly automated – it’s a very organic feeling recording that has a gentle undercurrent to it.

For the record, notes on the songs’ construction: Ergo Phizmiz and People Like Us uploaded files to a shared server, downloaded and processed each other’s work, and flung the resulting fragments back at each other.