Review: Arrange – Plantation

Arrange – Plantation

Released: May 17, 2011
Label: N/A
Purchase: Insound | Bandcamp

Some albums are truly a cinematic experience. While perhaps this descriptor is most often relegated to concept albums, Arrange‘s Plantation proves such should not always be the case. For Plantation, created by Floridian Malcom Lacey, unfolds itself song by song much like a film does scene by scene. And also much like a movie, the listener discovers something previously unnoticed (and therefore unappreciated) with each replay. Thus, Lacey has achieved with Plantation what most artists cannot in a career: to create an album that betters itself with each listen.

It is the subtleties which ultimately set Plantation apart from any other album released thus far this year. One need only listen to the first track, “In Old Theaters”, to notice Lacey’s meticulous attention to detail. The song commences with a gradually building wave of white noise, soon awash in buried piano lines, that crashes into electronic, and later piano, melodies bolstered by prominent percussion. It’s incredibly full; if anything more were added, it would only serve to inundate the track, detracting from its quality. Yet it’s also an understated musical gesture; it’s dramatic but not melodramatic. And that’s precisely why it’s such a beautiful moment.

It’s also not an isolated one. Throughout Plantation, Lacey weaves melodic hooks in and out of the proverbial fabric of each song. Whether it be the synthesized horn entrance in the closing refrain of “Turnpike” or the catchy guitar riff that concludes “When’d You Find Me?”, each added theme contributes a new layer of texture to the track. But these layers aren’t simply stacked upon one another; instead, they intermingle. This counter-melodic interaction showcases Lacey’s songwriting ingenuity; it’s incredible how natural each song sounds considering the complexity.

What strikes the listener first, though, aren’t the musical intricacies of Plantation, but the raw emotion that so pervades the album. “Tearing Up Old Asphalt”, with its haunting piano and heart-wrenching lyrics, is a shining example of this. Lacey intones,”We were young/Kept runnin’ our mouths ’til he tore out our tongues/Didn’t hurt like anything”, his voice shaking as he narrates the story. “Melancholy” isn’t a strong enough adjective to describe the song.  It’s tear-inducing.

“Medicine Man” infuses this sadness with fury. Because of this combination, it’s undoubtedly the most affecting track on an album overflowing with feeling. Lyrically, Lacey is devastating, promising, “I am a medicine man/Bring me your colors just to fix them for you”. Yet the narrator, perhaps Lacey himself, has a revelation, realizing that he cannot heal the subject without hurting himself and declares, “I’m not a medicine man/Don’t bring me your colors just to fix them…/I’ll fucking tear you up”. The contrasting sentiment here is profoundly moving, almost frightening. One must wonder exactly what occurred to cause the narrator’s change of heart, but perhaps the brilliance of the lyric lies in that uncertainty.

As the final strains of instrumental closer “Orange Glow (Thank You For the Night)” ring out, one cannot help but picture the credits scrolling down a blank movie screen. Lacey’s — who amounts to the album’s entire crew, acting as writer, producer, and director — final track seems to express gratitude to the listener for givingPlantation their time. It’s an appreciation revealed by both the title and the warmth of the song. The subtle irony here is that anyone who has the pleasure of listening to Plantation has witnessed something incredible and potentially life-changing. Really, it’s Lacey who should be thanked, rather than the listener, for introducing something so indescribably important to music itself.


Standout Tracks: “When’d You Find Me?”, “Turnpike”, “Tearing Up Old Asphalt”, and “Medicine Man”

You can download the album for free or purchase a physical copy on his Bandcamp page here.

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