'Soteria' Album Reviews
The Ark of Music
June 29th, 2020
Many artists try to evoke feelings in their listeners, but it isn’t often that the desired feeling could be a degree of fear. But for Illinois-based electronic music producer Em Baker, darkness is at the center of her music. Under artist name P’like, Baker has recently released the album Soteria, and it is a collection of experimental electronic tracks that are haunting – at times almost frightening – but rooted in well-written music and backed by excellent production.
Baker’s musical education started very early, taking piano lessons at the age of five. She dabbled in drums, bass, and guitar before discovering her love for electronic music production in her early 20’s. Baker writes, records, produces, and mixes all of her own tracks, and her experience shows on her latest release. Soteria is P’like’s first album recorded with multiple collaborators, and while each of the tracks has their own unique flair, the dynamic, gothic undertones that are distinctly P’like sounds are at the heart of this album.
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
From the first seconds of 'Candy Cigarettes', it’s clear that when P’like says dark electronic, the emphasis is on dark. The intro is haunting, building anticipation like the opening scenes of a horror movie. And as the song progresses, we’re given a mix of both modern electronic sounds and a smattering of unsettling effects that are spine-chillingly present but don’t overwhelm the musicality of the track.
'Sanity Meter' verges more into dark-pop territory, where the goal is not just being unsettling, but rather more traditionally artistic expression. That’s not to say that the breathy vocals and whispers don’t foster a bit of a sense of unease.
'The Real Plot' features multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Joakim Aaberg and Marcus Lilja, and treats us to a more lyrical focus than some of the previous tracks. You can hear where their melodic influence gives this song a different timbre, but it combines nicely with the driving, booming drum beat, and variety of background synths and effects that have come to sound like P’like signatures.
OUR FAVORITE TRACK…
We don’t feel bad in admitting that the unexpected growl in the intro of 'Baku-San, Come Eat My Dream' made us jump, nor do we feel bad that the child’s laughter quickly following made us turn all the lights on. This track feels like it’s right out of a horror movie, but in all the right ways. There is suspense, intrigue, and dissonance that keeps you on the edge of your seat. But it is still grounded in musicality, so the song never loses that melodic familiarity.
Expertly produced. Haunting and intriguing. P’like has a unique sound and style that brings the element of unease into her music without losing the melody itself. Immerse yourself in a world of dark soundscapes with Soteria. For those interested in music that pushes the boundaries of the expected, in a genre that is eclectic and underrepresented in the music industry, this experimental electronic piece is an album to listen to. Check out Soteria below.
Evanescence meets Sidewalks and Skeletons.
Please support P’like by visiting her online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing her music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
Philipp Gottfried, June 29th, 2020
Mad Madame Em is not only a mastermind and producer when it comes to her P'like project, she is also a designer who creates completely new soundscapes with her music. The project from the American university town of Champaign / Illinois has been publishing music under the P'like project for several years now. This extremely creative woman has been active musically since 2003, when she was still playing the bass in the industrial / electronic band Bishop Buzzkill. In the period that followed, Em intensely began learning synthesizers and drum machines and was quickly in love with the processes of production and composition of electronic music. Under their new project name P'like, Em published their debut album, 47th Helen. Several releases and almost six years later, the new mini album Soteria is now in the starting blocks, which saw the light of day on June 15, 2020 and about which today's article is about.
On Soteria, P'like gives a futuristic sound to the delight of fans of decent electronic music. The dark sound extends through the songs and so new sound worlds open up in an impressive way and whites. The opener 'Candy Cigarettes' comes out of the boxes in a moderate beat and impresses with a futuristic electric sound that just sounds like a brilliant symbiosis of dark electro and industrial. But it's not just the sound design that makes songs like 'Candy Cigarettes' on P'like's new (mini) album Soteria a real musical treat. In collaboration with the English artist Yellow Belly was born the song 'Sanity Meter', which plays with exactly the same sound melange or sound concept as you already know from the opener, but which shines through the sound of the individual elements. Epic melodies, breathtaking, powerful basses and interesting vocal passages make Yellow Belly an epic title that makes its way into the music consumer's ear canals in an impressive way. The dark flair is omnipresent and not only impresses with an interesting arrangement or sound concept, but also with a balanced composing.
Mastermind Mad Madame Em acts like a musical chemist who tries out her own creations in her laboratory. In the dark sound and slow drum beats, Soteria looks like a dark, slightly surreal creature that can convince not only with a sophisticated concept or imaginative sound design and arrangement of the individual songs, but also like Frankenstein's Monster (in a positive sense) tremendously with a hammer Sound makes its way into the listening room. Taking everything in and demanding (and rightly) the listener's attention.
With a high level of diversity and ideas, the Mad Madame Em project convinced with Soteria . The eerily beautiful 'Baku-San, Come Eat My Dream' is the acoustic stuff nightmares are made of. Introductory with the sound of a music box and a child's smile that does not come across so pleasantly that the shiver runs straight down your spine in the first few bars, directs the dark and epic sound. Which is characterized by catchy drums, powerful bass and light ethnic sounds in the lead area, which also applies to the vocals, which does not need any lyrics at all. Pulling through the sound of the individual songs as a kind of guide is essential here, the bass-heavy drum sound and the timing of the songs, which as a whole reveal a clearly structured concept and yet the individual tracks are multifaceted, inspiring and diverse.
In the feature with Eyemouth, 'The Real Plot' is an epic track is coming with incredibly hot sounds and a fantastic blend of the speakers, their formation is more complex nature. The male vocals are brought to bear by interesting synthesizer sounds, powerful and driving basses and decent industrial drums. The sound is a little reminiscent of the PTA era of Depeche Mode , only that P'like uses it here in a dark electro jargon and the overall concept is based on an epic composing and sound design. The encore in the form of the Pinklogik Remix from then falls somewhat out of the classic concept regarding beat design 'The Maiden Wound' from, a song that captivates with loving vocals, danceable drumbeats suitable for the Goth Club and also futuristic - dark synthesizer templates. The 'Dust (Cryosleep)' remix comes in a light dark Dubstep jargon and concludes P'like's latest output Soteria , which can also assert itself through epic, psychedelic sounds and impressive compositions.
Conclusion 10 out of 10: Mad Madame Em is a true artist who knows how to combine interesting sounds with hammer composing. Friends of the dark Electromucke should not miss this project!
'Envious Moon' Single Reviews
Foolish Dreams Music Blog
Mel Yelle, October 31st, 2019
Please welcome from Illinois, electronic music project: P'like. Breaking the rules, this musical project plays with our emotions and explores the darkest elements of our human psyche. Producer and composer Mad Madam Em and soundscape designer ASH are the masterminds behind this incredible outfit endlessly toying with our subconscious.
Combining natural sounds and heavy electronic elements, for the very first time P'like collaborates with the darkwave electronic maestro Melodywhore from Houston. Together, the very first single 'Envious Moon' is scheduled to be released on Hallows Eve, 2019. Based on a poem written by Melodywhore fifteen years ago, finally 'Envious Moon' comes to life through song. With grace, Melodywhore finally confides in Mad Madam Em, and together the hypnotizing number was shaped with excellency.
Melodywhore reveals, “I could almost immediately hear the marriage of our signature sounds and knew that I should approach her about doing some work together. As a very spiritual person, I felt like I was being led in this direction and when Em and I did talk, it was like we were old friends.”
'Envious Moon' is the aftermath of new beginnings, faith, and trust. Melodywhore abandons the need to be in control of his own art and hands over the project to P'like, who crafted an erotic and bewitching sound. The enchanting vocals of Melodywhore portray a fragile and vulnerable character in this atmospheric tune. As the song progresses, we easily feel trapped inside this sensitive character P'like created through dark ambient music. It is the aura and general emotion of the song that creates the sensation of yearning and desire.
We are thrilled that the two darkwave projects collaborated. The song is simply stunning. Follow P'like and Melodywhore on social media and be sure to check out their music.
De Anima Album Reviews
Dirk Scarlett, October 4th, 2019
Every once in a while, something truly different comes along. Unfortunately this difference often translates into a naivety of sound that masks the true quality of the music on offer - nothing could be further from the truth with the stunning album De Anima by P'like.
Earthy, tribal melancholic genius abounds on this album. The sheer lusciousness and incredible depth of the haunting soundscapes on display here are mesmerizing. It weaves it's way expertly between delicious laconic pop and semi-operatic drama, all of it underpinned by a level of sonic production that could grace any top engineers resumé.
This is an album that soars above the mundane and pulls the listener right along with it. This is not what I would call an overtly easy album, it is a choice, but one that offers truly rich rewards. I expect to be hearing tracks from this in the background of avant grade movies for years to come. So get yourself in the mood, settle down and let it wash over you. Even given his views on materialistic reductionism, I think Aristotle would have liked it - a lot!
Rebecca Cullen, August 27th, 2019
Illinois act P’like make a long-awaited return with this ambiently captivating and conceptually provocative new album. Proceeding from intriguing and delicate beginnings, through a multi-layered arena of stunning soundscapes – scattered with melodies and ideas, fragments of thoughts and thicker underlying sentiments – the album works wonders for the mind and body alike.
Jericho kicks things off as a beautifully soulful yet industrially soaked piece of trip-hop, with a gorgeous leading vocal that echoes out into the room. Meanwhile the music builds, gathering momentum in subtle, skillful ways.
The Banished follows and hits with a slightly heavier level of darkness and mystery. Still though, that set-up and vocal sound feel perfectly in keeping with the threads of identity and purpose that run throughout the playlist.
In the way that albums from Portishead, Zero 7, even Leftfield and some of the more EDM-inspired projects that ventured into trip hop, would prove to be a reliable and loyal go-to for years to come – that element of absolute escapism, of darkness and clarity intertwined – that’s precisely what this project offers listeners. It’s refreshing, to say the very least, and it’s easily worth more than a few streams throughout the coming months and years.
Strange Melancholy and Metanoia continue down the road of deep thought and meditative intensity. The latter veers off into a Moby-sense of calm and peacefulness, with a dash of London Grammar to the delivery. Sweeping string sounds create a wave of warmth as the vocal hypnotically calls out for forgiveness or freedom. An addictively simple yet powerful track that’s easily a personal favourite.
The Maiden Wound brings back that industrial aura and creates around you a haunting, disjointed array of fragmented references and moments – feeling like the peak decision or change in some epic sci-fi film. Then Subliminal quickly reignites that intrigue and interest in the underlying intentions of the project. The journey continues, consistently feeling familiar and relevant to itself, yet always throwing in a few creative curve-balls and twists to maintain an inherent mood and motive. The louder you listen, the deeper you fall under the spell of the experience.
As The Shadow Effect tumbles out around you, things get all the more eerie and unsettling. A welcomed hit of weight and engaging rhythm helps create a late-night EDM vibe that’s all at once welcoming and enticed by a sense of evil and darkness. Again, hints of ideas are thrown out intermittently, subliminally inspiring a certain pattern of thinking.
Things come to a sweetly resolving yet still uncertain and dreamlike finish with the calming, spacious tones of Syzygy feat. The Fair Attempts. A piano-led ambiance meets with infrequent hits of rhythm, all of which is washed over by a series of united, choir-like voices. The sound alone creates the story, not lyrics – the full artistic arrangement is mesmerizing, and beautifully well-captured. Another absolute highlight, and a fantastic way to finish this album.
Many have tried to create unique projects such as this, the sort that tip their hats to the creatives of yesteryear but also offer something profoundly new and fascinating. Most have failed to really come through with something of lasting value and appeal. In this case, De Anima genuinely feels like a worthy and timeless classic. Perhaps even with too short of a time-span for most listeners.
While there has always been an air of originality and freedom to the P’like sound, this project seems to have reached another level altogether. De Anima in full is a sensational new album that’s absolutely worth the time it takes to experience it in full, and at volume.
Starwing, August 25th, 2019
Plike is the music project of producer and composer, Mad Madam Em. De Anima is the eighth album by Plike, released August 15, 2019. The album consists of eight songs that feature exquisite vocals in the form of lyrics and arias within dark electronic dance tracks. Some songs have a slower tempo that would suit an intimate dance, and the more upbeat tracks would definitely fit well on a dance floor. Every track on the album is deeply moving for me, as it tapped into many emotional experiences I’ve had.
The album opens up with Jericho. It has soft, dreamy vocals with a strong beat. The music features pianos and synths, combined with an industrial style soundscape. The words of the song stimulate my imagination, and I think this is a great song for dancing by yourself or with a partner. An instant favourite that is unlike anything I’ve heard before.
The Banished has a powerful intro with menacing laughter and an accusation, leading into beautiful vocals full of longing. The dark synths and strong beat are excellent for the dance floor. The continued laughter throughout the song is like mocking the broken cries in the lyrics, creating a sinister feeling. This is my personal favourite because the song draws out feelings of empathy, and reminds me of some very dark times where I used music and dance to get through unbearable things. I think this song will be particularly healing for many listeners.
The third song is Strange Melancholy. Beautiful piano notes blended with dreamy vocals, and a powerful, dark rhythm makes it another great dance track. The industrial influence on this song creates a truly unique sound. The lyrics and vocals are very uplifting in the way that “I’ll be fine” is repeated like a mantra or a promise to the self.
Metanoia has a strong, heavy beat from the start, and a slower tempo. The lyrics are bluesy in the first half of the song, which enhances the more powerful vocals in the chorus. Industrial elements are less pronounced in this song, but really come into play in the second half, before the piano melody takes the lead again near the end of the song. This is an incredibly soothing and inspiring song that encourages honest introspection, release of guilty feelings, and forgiveness from yourself.
Next up is The Maiden Wound, with a soft intro that leads into a dark, industrial song. The airy vocals accompany the strong bass and beat, and are not the main element of the song. The beat and instrumentation are the driving force of the track. The song grows darker sounding as it progresses, and it is a fantastic dance song, in my opinion.
Subliminal has an ominous intro with distorted voice samples that really sets the mood for the track. It has a slower tempo, with a strong beat and wispy vocals. The music is like and orchestral melody wrapped up in an electronic dance song.
The Shadow Effect has incredible percussion and deep voice samples, with soft vocals sprinkled throughout this industrial style track. This is the darkest and most disconcerting sounding track in the album. I enjoyed the tension it inspired in me, while the vocals were soothing enough to to draw me deeper into the music.
Syzygy feat. The Fair Attempts is the final track on the album. This one is difficult for me to review while trying to be unbiased, due to the collaboration with The Fair Attempts. In the past, I got around this by not commenting on what he contributed, but this time his contribution is too significant to overlook or side-step. I remember listening to his piano and choir composition while he worked on it, and it reminds me of cozy winter afternoons. Plike then breathed new life into it with incredible bass, drums and haunting vocals. When I heard the finished song, it honestly blew my mind. This collaboration turned out even better than I had hoped, and I am personally very proud of them for creating this outstanding track.
With my reviews, I always strive to point out at least one thing that could be improved upon, so the artist can benefit from the review beyond receiving encouraging praise. I was unable to find anything that felt unnatural to me as I listened, or something that could’ve been somehow better. Perhaps it is a lack of exposure to similar music, although I’m not sure there is any music like it. The sound is entirely unique to me. I highly recommend that you save De Anima to your library on Spotify, or purchase the album for your personal collection from Bandcamp.
Seven Album Reviews
The Bandcamp Diaries
Andrea Caccese, January 9th, 2019
A new project featuring cinematic soundscapes and nuanced arrangements with a lot of depth.
Plike is the moniker behind the work of Mad Madam Em, a talented artist with a driven, unique and kaleidoscopic approach. Her sound blurs the lines between cinematic post-gothic scenarios and forward-thinking dark melodies. Elements such as industrial and alternative music are prominent in her tone, and her production style is often hailed as creative and deeply unpredictable.
Recently, Plike brought a brand new project to life. Her most recent release is titled “Seven.” As the name of this record might imply, it actually features 7 new tracks, each stretching out the artist’s sound and vision towards different creative horizons and ideas.
What really binds all the songs together is undoubtedly the amazing quality of Plike’s production aesthetics. The sounds are well-balanced, perfectly expressive and deeply nuanced, making for a really special listening experience.
The first song on this release is titled “Forgotten,” and it actually serves as a really poignant introduction. This amazing track has a very airy, slow-paced and hypnotic electronic beat with an industrial flavor. The melodies dance swiftly around the beat, maintaining a sparse and direct approach. Some ethereal vocals, drenched in reverb effects, are swiftly moving in the background, almost like an otherworldly chant coming from a parallel universe, twisting the very fabric of space and time.
The second song, “Posing Questions,” has a mellower vibe. The spirit of this track is very forward-thinking and unique, allowing the artist to experiment with vocal layers and somber synthetic strings, as the beats take a step back. The distinctive vocal tones are very intimate and filled with sheer beauty, going for a very earnest and emotional delivery. This is almost like Sigur Ros jamming with Dido, in a dark forest after midnight!
“Try Not To Wake It Up” is perhaps my favorite song on this release. The organ sound is quite amazing, and it blends in really well with modern samples, glitchy effects and creative melodies. I love the varied taste of the track’s arrangement, which really showcases Plike’s unique compositional and production approach.
“The Tower” is a fantastic song with an epic tone. There is a sense of depth and grandeur to this track, specifically in how the beats interact with the lush pads and the vocalizations. “Dystopia” follows right after, returning to the more industrial vibes encountered at the beginning of the EP. It’s all about understated melodies, huge-sounding drums and ethereal vocals. “The Woman Who Drilled A Hole In Her Head” has a sinister title, and just about the dark and melancholic mood to back it up! This is one of the most intriguing arrangements on the album, and in spite of it being the shortest song on the release, there is definitely a lot going on here.
Last, but decidedly not least, “Turning The Tide” is a perfect curtain closer for this release. The song sounds dark and gloomy, but there is a brighter, uplifting opening, which reveals another side to Plike’s creative vision.
Ultimately, “Seven” is quite a perfect taste of Plike’s creative vision and distinctive musical aesthetics. Every song hits the mark with a fantastic tone, and a really huge-sounding production. The mix is warm and balanced, allowing each element to sit in its right space, and in particular, letting the vocals stand out in a very pleasing way.
Mad Madam Em creates lots of works for video games and films, and it is not surprising, given the fact that her compositional style is actually very iconic, visual and cinematic. These tracks are suggestive, almost as if the music was the soundtrack to a story being told. If you enjoy the work of artists like Trent Reznor, This Will Destroy You or Nosaj Thing, you might definitely enjoy what you’re hearing on Plike’s release!
“Seven” is a very rewarding listening experience with a broad sound and a really unique creative palette, and it’s amazing to hear how much care and passion went into the creation of this polyhedric recording project.
Learn more about Plike’s music and don’t miss out on “Seven” and other releases from this talented artist.
Divide and Conquer
4.0 out of 5
Rebecca Rothschild, February 28th, 2019
An easy drive down 55 would land me in Champaign, Illinois, home to a dark and dreamy pop artist known as Plike. I'd like to welcome Plike back to Divide & Conquer. It's my first time reviewing her work. Her latest album is Seven, and it's a gothic road full of twists and turns in a soft, velvety darkness. Musically her work is wholly electronic with lovely vocal performances. This created a lovely juxtaposition between the concrete of the electronic elements and the organic sound of the incredible voices on here. The album also has a deep feminine power to it where it presents women in several dimensions and colors.
The album paints with a hefty brush, thick stroked of deep black and violet wash across my mind as I listened to it. It's very coy, likes to tease the senses, play with balance and tickle curiosities. There are a lot of samples beyond the instruments. There are spoken word elements which are often ominous. There's lots of creeks and squeaks tied into the percussion very organically. It works. In terms of unconventional sampling, I think this album does VERY well and the creativity really shines.
When it comes to the musical samplings I felt like there were sounds that were boxed in with the shrink wrap still on. It's hard to blend a lot of the sounds in with the unbridled vocal performances and the cool unconventional stuff. It needs something extra. This is a tricky business in the world of electronic music and happens often. There are a few different cures. Sometimes you have to dig outside your normal electronic tools for samples. Sometimes it just takes a few minor tweaks when mastering to really punch up a particular sound. All in all I appreciate what is being done musically here. It is very ethereal and expressive.
The voices are really fantastic, again, the strong feminine presence is conveyed so well in the vocal work. Every now and then there are a few lyrics which was a nice surprise, because I never see it coming when it happens and it is not typical for albums like this. Most of the time it's just the vocalist flexing on those beautiful, haunting notes.
While the album is dark, it has a lot of emotional genres at play. Sure, horror is in there, but this album is not a one trick pony. I get a lot of sci-fi, action and thriller. Sometimes I swear I could hear these songs as scores for some of my favorite video games. Sometimes I see war and epic battles. This is one of those albums that sets a very specific mood; it takes control. A great tool to let your mind relax and let someone else drive for a while. So if you're looking to be transported tune into Seven.
Dark Room EP Reviews
Sleeping Bag Studios
Jer@SBS, June 19th, 2018
If you’re one of those people like myself, and you like to follow an artist right down the rabbit hole with the music they make, you’re going to get so much out of this new record from Plike. That being said – as the title of the EP would imply, be prepared to head into some pretty dark places…this entire set of five tunes have been inspired by some truly bizarre, creepy, and downright unethical scenes from our past history. It turns out that Em, the genius mastermind behind the music of Plike, got all addicted to the show Stranger Things, which led her to checking out all kinds of haunting real life stories of the horrors of human experimentation…and that has led us here, to the Dark Room EP. To get the full-scope of the inspirations driving this record, I fully recommend that you immerse yourself in some reading and check out the insane tales of the Holmesburg Prison experiments, Project MKUltra, the Monster Study of 1939, Project Bluebird where psychiatrists attempted to deliberately create multiple personalities in people where they did not exist before, and Kamera – aka Laboratory 12, the Russian secret service poison administration, more or less. All pretty grim stuff right? Well – that’s our history for ya…it ain’t all food pics & kitten videos…underneath the surface where we’re so often afraid to look, are the stories that tell our real tale on earth all too well…Plike tapped into ALL that & more to create this EP.
With the crash of a closing door, “Holmesburg” immediately locks you in place to listen. Gliding smoothly into a dense electro vibe that imposes the weight of both the devil & the angel upon your shoulders, Dark Room makes an instant impact – LISTEN to the way these sounds are mixed on “Holmesburg”! Brilliant use of drums, the vocals are magnificent, the subtle rumble & tremble of the low-end keeps the tension on high, even with everything sounding so angelic & graceful at the surface – do you see what I’m saying dear readers, dear friends? Plike does atmosphere, ideas, imagination, and contrast about 1000 degrees better and more on-target than most artists will be lucky enough to achieve once in their lifetime, let alone constantly crack the bat as hard as Em does consistently song after song! “Holmesburg” is pretty much the ultimate in invitational sound…killer trip-hop when it comes right down to it…dangerous…because the more you get pulled into this song, the more you’ll feel like you’re about to be locked away & imprisoned by it forever as the doors crash closed around you. I could personally think of a lot of potential fates much worse…me on my own in a cell with just the music of Plike to keep me company? Where do I sign up for THAT? Because I’ll volunteer to go. Think about the potential tie-in to this record…it’s all about human experimentation…so what if a guy like myself got locked away in a tower for the next decade with only Plike to listen to & my thoughts to keep me company – how’s THAT for an experiment in awesomeness? I’d be willing to bet that after that decade spent locked away with Plike’s music I’d come out in better shape than I went in…that’s all I’m saying. For real people – the atmosphere of “Holmesburg,” the incredible use of samples, the amazing additions to the mix with surrounding haunting sounds, the ethereal vocals that whisper ‘set me free’ as if they’re guiding you to the light & the way out of this Dark Room somehow…but we’re far from escaping yet.
Nor would we want to! As nightmarish & eerie as this EP quickly becomes with “The Monster Study” – I could stay lost in these incredible vibes for forever without a single complaint. Another seriously gripping atmosphere on display upfront on this record…reading about this event was equally chilling; again, I highly recommend checking out these associated stories that inspired these tunes because they really will heighten the experience. And hey, learning is cool kids, trust me. The shortened scenario is that this was an experiment performed on what essentially boils down to available orphaned kids…forgotten about children really, who ended up being the unwilling participants in speech behavior research where half were praised for the way they talked, the other half ridiculed. As to what it proved – the mystery honestly still remains from what I can read, other than that the ridiculed half suffered psychological scars deep enough to affect their daily life for years afterwards, eventually resulting in a lawsuit filed by the ‘patients’ – which incidentally, they won. What Em’s created on “The Monster Study” does an outright outstanding job of digging right into these themes…from the haunting twinkling sounds that seem stripped right out of the nursery, to the intense vocal samples from both kids & adults that run freakishly throughout the song, to the absolutely amazing main lead vocals flowing around everything that’s happening. I thought the choice of keeping the lead vocals ‘wordless’ was absolutely amazing and a seriously insightful move…it’s like the voice of the voiceless…maybe it can’t talk so much, but it can certainly still be heard and lives inside of us all, no matter the circumstances, yearning to break free. It’s so ridiculously well-put together than you can’t help but notice how these clear & creepy sounds crawl right under your skin…Em has outdone herself here once again in the opening of this EP and created a compelling & captivating beginning to her new record that I can’t honestly imagine anyone being able to resist. It might be the stuff of nightmares – but MAN is it good! So sack-up all you Sallys out there – put your big-boy pants on & take a dive into the deep end of the scarier side of music!
“Subproject 68” has such deadly low-end…the rhythm is subtly intense but so remarkably tangible, a truly essential part of this song, slow-burning in the background while the angelic vocals soar overtop and the beastliest parts of this soundscape reveal themselves. Em has done such an impeccable job on the production & balance of her music throughout this entire EP – a standard she’s always previously set extremely high in her creations and these new ones are no exception to the quality you’ve come to expect. From the very beginning of the soldiers rallying at the start of “Subproject 68” with boots stomping the ground alongside the menacing low-end presence, you get chills. Some of these vocal samples will likely prevent a few of the faint-hearted from playing this EP after dark – but for those of us that can handle the intensity…again, there’s just nothing here that would stop you from wanting to spin this all damn day every day. Plike gets it right, 100% of the time – “Subproject 68” is just as much proof of that as any of the songs on this record are…this is more than commendable music being made here – Em is leading the way in her genre & style…whatever you might consider that to be, she’s number one. Like many artists that are instrumental, which essentially Em is, they add their ‘voice’ & perspective through the samples they use…and many artists out there can do it really well by using smart selections. Em proves on “Subproject 68” that there is STILL more to it than that…that it’s not just what you use, but how you use it; she’s picked out amazing samples to use, but listen to the precision in the placement and the effect that has on the way this song moves. Or any of these songs for that matter, but we happen to be discussing “Subproject 68” right at this moment…you get the idea; the effort is being made and the results are there – Plike is structuring songs that continually pull you in until they absorb you in-full and envelop you entirely.
Definitely mad props & shout-outs to the incredible job that vocalists Linda Strawberry and Holly Drummond have put into this record. As to who’s doing what or when, I’m not always exactly sure – but I can tell you for a certain fact that every single note & whisper I’ve heard from either of them has been fantastically flawless. I’m thinking you might even get both of them at once on a track like “Bluebird.” That’s a bonus for you, if that is indeed the case…either way, you really can’t go wrong with these two pros – every time you hear the beautiful, graceful, angelic, & ethereal tones of their voices, they add dimension & depth to the whole song in a way that really complements what’s already happening. Essentially, rather than dominate the lead like so many singers in bands do etc., they play a significantly strong supporting role in enhancing the environments being established so impressively by Em. I don’t know which demons she has summoned to guest star on the beastly & gnarly vocal samples that occur throughout “Bluebird” – and I’m not about to head off & consult my Ouija board to figure it out for myself. I can definitely get that a track like “Bluebird” might be tougher for the average Top-40 listener out there to wrap their heads around – but c’mon…we’ve all got ears right? “Bluebird” is so darkly beautiful & stunning…that bright twinkling xylophone-like melody becomes twisted & haunting…the multiple layers of voices and whispers again echoing the story that inspired this tune as they drift in & out. Some more forcefully than others. I bet this song could even become an interesting psychological study on its own; it would be incredibly interesting to learn about which sounds people ‘hear’ more in a song like “Bluebird” – because at its core, the mix & contrast are really evenly split between the light & the dark. So are you drawn to the beauty of a song like “Bluebird” or to its darkness? I think it’s gotta be awesome to examine the people that examine your music…this song should make that fun for Plike.
If you are looking for something a bit more accessible, it’ll likely be the last song, “Laboratory 12,” which features Philly-based producer Digibilly in the mix. Honestly, I don’t even know how you’d begin or end a collaboration like this – but I can tell ya the results are bangin’ for sure! With increased tempo & pace, “Laboratory 12” has the distinct advantage of pulling listeners in through the wild ride it becomes and how dramatically different the overall sound & approach to this final tune is by comparison to the rest. Smart placement on this record…it’s got great energy to leave us on and this much of a switch in sound likely would have felt jarring were it to occur somewhere in the middle of the Dark Room EP, but right at the end, that’s a perfect spot for Plike to make that last shift and deliver that lasting impression. It’s also nearly double the length of the rest of the tunes on the record, so there’s definitely more space to be flexible – and together, they take solid advantage of that extra room & really add a ton into the structure. Digibilly & Plike will take you into smooth electro and switch it up fearlessly into true IDM-inspired moments that highlight that scattered sound that makes the genre such an intense one to listen to. Perhaps the best thing is, you never really see this one coming – “Laboratory 12” will test you a ton of times along the way, making sure you’re listening with your full attention by switching the vibe up completely. The way “Laboratory 12” morphs and transitions creates a genuinely epic ending to Plike’s Dark Room EP – still chill enough to fit in with the rest, but with enough rambunctious sound ripping at you at times to give this last song that extra push to make an impact on ya & leave you on a memorable note. I’d say that’s a mission fully accomplished – Plike has absolutely done it again with this wicked EP full of beautiful horrors & nightmares come to life – just know what you’re getting yourself into! 100% killer from wall to wall – it’s out there now so go get yourself a copy – straightjacket sold separately.
Rebecca Cullen, June 4th, 2018
Artist and songwriter Plike returns this year with something totally unexpected and creatively thoughtful throughout. Inspired by the infamous oddity that is Netflix’ Stranger Things, this project has been described as an ominous, profoundly cinematic exploration of some of the darkest moments in human history. Listen freely regardless, but perhaps also try to consider the story behind each track, the unethical and frankly terrifying experiments that have taken place throughout human history, and the fear and insanity that brought them into existence.
Holmesburg sets things in motion, a mellow, industrial-style beat drives from the distance, as equally far-away vocal snippets fade in and out of the mix. The craftsmanship is where the strength lies, this is a piece of audio to be experienced – the movement of it carries you along, the brief ideas presented by the vocals provoke deep thought, and all in all you get that authentic, alternative trip-hop edge that is all too absent from mainstream music of late.
The Monster Study follows the opener and brings in a high ended glockenspiel sound (or something of the like), alongside of which a haunting backdrop begins to emerge – complete with the terrifying vocal manipulation of a late night horror film. The title and the mood of the music walk hand in hand through your consciousness. There’s delicacy and terror, softness and intensity, all intertwined within the walls of a beautifully entrancing piece of music. As things progress, certain riffs become the crucial threads of familiarity – the vocal notes, the glock riff, the sudden appearance of technology, of an alternative voice – of history itself and further ideas being carefully placed within the process. You quickly realise with this release that Plike, or Mad Madam Em as she is otherwise known, has excelled herself on the creative production front. This is a totally immersive, subtle yet certainly cinematic collection.
Subproject 68 takes things in yet another unpredictably captivating direction. The military march, the aggressive shout of a leader not to be toyed with – the soundscape seems to gather up these building blocks and wrap them in the softness of a leading voice and a concept that again surrounds you, absorbing your current moment and redirecting your thought pattern – or, re-programming your brain, as the song so subtly suggests.
Keeping those recognisable threads alive, Bluebird is a track that suits the EP well but falls far from the usual mood of a song with such a joyful title. There’s a lightness here, for sure, the track is less haunting, but it still digs at your fears regardless – particularly considering the abhorrent history behind it. The beat is brilliant, the contrast utilised throughout is mighty, making for what is actually an easy highlight of the whole project. The soundscape builds and evolves in a beautiful way, surrounding you with atmospheric elements but always keeping that rhythm, that movement and sense of progression, alive and well.
The final track of the new EP is Laboratory 12, a collaborative piece featuring the production skills of Digibilly. There’s an immediate presentation of the new perspective, but there are also still quite clearly those Plike points of interest that keep the song relevant. It’s a hypnotic bit of down-tempo EDM that works well as the closing moment, opening the door to a totally new way of thinking or reflecting on what has come to pass. There are a few touches of colour and changing energy as the track progresses, the wall of audio falls away, the bassier aspects show their true nature, the beat shines brightly. Later on, the EDM vibrancy explodes into its own realm of power, letting all anxieties fall away as the movement and the music sweep you off your feet.
At only five tracks deep you wish for a little more, but at the same time – a lot seems to take place within the time frame. An easy go to and a totally professional and freely creative project, refreshing to listen to and a strong reminder of the ongoing creative growth and considerate audio craft-work of Plike – not to mention an unsettling journey down some of history’s darkest pathways.
Bending Spoons EP Reviews
Rebecca Cullen, July 20th, 2017
Plike is the solo project of music producer & composer Mad Madam Em. Bending Spoons is her latest release, a five track project offering a blissful and reflective array of ideas and escapism, in a way that, quite frankly, hasn’t been done to such an effective standard in quite some time.
Not only has the music throughout this EP been composed and crafted with absolute consideration and skill, but there’s an underlying wave of depth to the whole thing that is likely to bring out in listeners their utmost human and perhaps otherwise hidden emotions about life and the world. "Clocked" introduces the collection superbly, presenting this unique and unpredictable scene that all the while evolves into this stunning piece of music – fusing drama and instrumentation, utilising more than just one form of expression, and doing so in a concise and flawless manner.
"The Destruction Of Wonderland" is a sensational piece of music and performance, somehow successfully fusing the darker side of music, leaning even on occasion towards the intensity of metal, and the softness and vulnerability of ambient trip-hop. The song teases its audience in a way, teetering between the calm, easy going, and the thick and powerful. The featured vocals are stunning, but it’s largely down to this undeniably creative and masterful production style that the whole thing holds so much strength. It captivates and calms you, all the while stealing your awareness, moving you away from where you are, suggesting a song for you to familiarise yourself with, but more so overwhelming you with this other worldly, beautifully haunting soundscape.
To master professional production is no easy feat, and oftentimes the effort put in can take away from the creative essence of the artist working at it. In this case, the best possible outcome has arisen. This EP showcases five entirely unique recordings that toy with your inner feelings and provoke deep consideration, at times calming you, other times evoking the most chaotic of thoughts. And with every moment, the variety of sounds and samples and lyrics and performances are collectively fused in the most captivating and satisfying way.
"Black Swan" is stunning, a simple set of lyrics that strike with absolute power in among this thick yet mellow beat and these snippets of audio, somehow suggesting both distance and intimacy all at once. "Scarecrow" is mesmerising, once again providing something impossible to predict or expect, perfectly in keeping with the mood of the collection but adding to it something new and fast and heavy.
The way in which Mad Madam Em compiles these songs is hypnotic and fascinating, with every new occasion of listening there is something else to pick up on, something else to witness, and so the louder you play it, the more these soundscapes fill out and replace all else that surrounds you. There’s a theatrical element to all of this, but in the same instance, it’s very easy to return to this EP for the simple beauty of trip-hop and the dreamlike world it creates around you. Creativity is the key in building something effective yet completely new, and Bending Spoons has it in abundance.
"Archangel (Feat. ASH)" is the closing track. At just two minutes and twenty seconds long, it feels like a final wave of contemplation, one last, deep breath to see out the end of the experience. This is an intensely atmospheric collection that needs nothing more than for you to listen to it in full and consider the effect it has on you as the songs play out. It’s the sort that will affect each listener differently, and that’s the beauty of great art. The depth and passion with which the EP was created is clear, everything about it takes into account these very real feelings and experiences that drove the artist to compose, and this passes over to you as you witness it.
Jared Richardson, July 27th, 2017
Plike‘s clockwork realm of dark, cowbwebby trip-hop paints a dark, dank world, full of golem’s and scuttling beasties. Her precisely engineered EP Bending Spoons is immaculately produced, with dense layers of sounds, beats, vocals and intriguing background miscellany.
‘Clocked’ starts us off, suitably, with fractured timekeeping in an eerie horror-scape. The second track ‘The Destruction Of Wonderland’ says it all – and within it the dreamlike and the childlike become sinister and entropic.
‘Black Swan’ s foundry electro meets an abundance of movie samples, giving birth to a neon-lit cinematic vista. It might be the best use of samples we’ve heard since Radar Men From The Moon‘s first album. ‘Scarecrow’ earth-churning motions meets blockbuster trailer time blocks of noise.
It also, occasionally, reminds me of when I spent too much time on Playstation games such as Wipeout 2097 and Resident Evil, which is all to the good.
Red Queen, White Queen Album Reviews
No More Division
Matt Jensen, December 9th, 2016
4.0 out of 5 - TOP ALBUM
Plike is a brainchild of Austin based composer and producer Mad Madam Em. Veela, Holly Drummond, and Francesca Genco are the vocalists on Red Queen, White Queen. It’s a wicked combination of cutting edge production and often beautiful vocals that are dripping with melancholy.
Musically, artists like Bjork, Portishead and even Burial came to mind. There is an ethereal quality, that feels meditative and emotionally heavy. I wouldn’t call this music playful. You can find yourself immersed in contemplative thought when you listen to the layers of vocals harmonies, atmospheric pads and much more.
The album opens with “The Proving Grounds” which is indicative of the overall vibe of this album. Almost all the energy of the song is from the drums. The angelic background vocals, bells and synths are almost pure atmosphere. Even the vocals feel like they are grouped in this sub section of the music. The juxtaposition is quite enjoyable and the percussion really is enough to not make this feel like ambient music.
Slight deviations are presented as the album progresses. The percussive elements are intricate ear candy on “Never Always” while “Stigmatized” is a dynamic highlight that contains warm orchestral strings and percussion that sounds like it could be used in an epic battle scene in a movie. The fast paced “Stage Five” and instrumental and lush “Headroom (feat. ASH)” were the other standouts. That being said I enjoyed every track.
The reason this album works so well is that the songs feel like they are torn from the same cloth which is a crucial aspect in making an album really work. Even more importantly it feels like Em has really established a sound. That's really one of the hardest aspects of making music which unfortunately some artists never reach.
Red Queen, White Queen sounds modern and relevant to my ears. Recommended.
The Bandcamp Diaries
Peter Vidani, October 29th, 2016
Mad Madam Em is a composer based in Austin, Texas. Her project, Plike, is an outlet for dark and haunting electronic atmospheres. This music blurs the lines between the dense atmospheres of artists such as Portishead or Massive Attack, while bringing a more polished, impactful and modern approach that remind me of artists such as Nine Inch Nails or Blutangel, just to mention but a few.
Plike’s recent release is titled Red Queen, White Queen, and it is a stunning collection of 8 tracks that showcase the diverse, versatile and unique approach to composition that defines Mad Madam Em’s unique style.
The opening track, "The Proving Grounds", has some stunning vocal harmonies and really massive electronic percussion, combining with the singer’s lush and ethereal vocals, with some amazing reverb tones adding space and texture. The second track, "Never Always", follows along similar patterns, but there is a much darker tension in the air, with massive piano chords beautifully counteracting the bright chime of playful bell-like keys.
"Stigmatized" is the 3rd song on this release and it brings a cinematic quality to the sound, with an introductory spoken word that hints at the insightful social content of this song. The massive drums and the beautiful strings are just a perfect match to the vocals. Following track, "Rabbit Hole", has some really quirky synth melodies that make for a catchy and distinctive tune with a rather cool late 80s twist, even in the massiveness of the snare tones. "A Bottle Marked Poison" is a soft, melancholic ballad with lyrics that are personal and direct, full of emotion and pathos.
The 6th song, "Stage Five", has some great vocal harmonies that remind me of artists such Enigma or Enya. There are some new age influences, although the song still retains Plike’s distinctive personality. “Dust” follows, beginning with some eerie medical apparatus sound samples, which actually fit in very well in the song even on a musical standpoint, even enhancing the meaning of lyrics such as “Feel my heartbeat”.
The closing track, "Headroom", also features a collaboration with Ash, and it stands out as a great closing number with a dreamy feel.
Empathetic Apathy EP Reviews
Sleeping Bag Studios
Jer@SBS, October 27th, 2016
If you recently tuned into the latest episode of the SBS Podcast, you’ve already been introduced to the intensely emotional and atmospheric sounds of Plike through the first track from Red Queen, White Queen, called “The Proving Grounds.” I played it because I felt like this was not just the first great experience you get in listening to this record…but because this truly had a subtly empowering vibe in the mix that really felt like Plike was staking her claim and seriously embracing this moment in time. There’s a confidence you can hear in the flow of the movement and the sound selection…it glides sleekly along and everything we hear continually finds a way to close in on us, enveloping us in a truly extraordinary atmosphere that has gorgeous melody, depth and texture to it. I played “The Proving Grounds” because I felt like it best represented the sentiment that Plike’s time has truly come.
The exquisite production on “The Proving Grounds” quickly becomes a staple part of Em’s repertoire, transitioning with the sound of an air-horn & explosion leading into the more desolate, isolated and haunting textures of “Never Always.” With a piano melody-line leading the way strongly, much of the verse almost comes out sounding like a music-box of sort…the old-school kind where you’d open up some weird looking thing that would play music for you. It has an innocence to it like that…but the haunting way the tones come out give it a twisted, dark & emotional layer that works completely well for Plike. Each movement of “Never Always” creeps eerily forward, but beautifully all the same. Vocals sound gorgeous and I love how they’re right in the swell of the mix of the music…everything in combination becomes the star of what we hear rather than any one specific element.
We know from our past interview with Em from Plike that a lot of this album was created around the themes of ‘mental illness’…this becomes more prevalent on “Stigmatized.” Not too much mind you…Plike is subtle in the sense that you’re more than likely not going to catch every word as it goes by, but the ones that do will certainly pique your interest. From the inviting sound of “Stigmatized” and what we’ve heard so far…I’d certainly be willing to entertain the notion that this album is actually about ‘mental wellness’ when everything we here is so soothing to the mind, body & soul like this. Again personally, I love the way that the music envelops the words within the shroud of Em’s sound…they still displays completely perfect tones and makes massive contributions to the melodies overall. The music of “Stigmatized” is brilliantly unique and incredibly effective…truly the kind of music that transports you to another atmosphere altogether. This particular tune slightly reminded me of the intense writing you find in powerful acts like Cat Power or Bat For Lashes…there’s real substance in the music that Plike is creating…this is music that seriously lasts. The electro-violin sounds that run through a vast majority of “Stigmatized” became absolutely hypnotic to me…I felt like with that, the soaring & emotional vocals and the huge percussion sounds…well…I felt like I could have left this song to repeat forever. Were it not for the fact that there’s much more to comment on throughout Red Queen, White Queen…I very well just MIGHT have left this on repeat all damn day…”Stigmatized” was aces.
But then…you see…there she goes again! Nearing the 1:30 mark…okay, more like 1:20 cause you all know I’m specific like that…but never mind my OCD and LISTEN to the brilliant way the chords move and change right around this time on “Rabbit Hole” as the song begins to truly take shape. “Rabbit Hole” to say the least! I’d pretty much follow this artist anywhere by this point in the record…you know…as non-stalker-ish-ly as I could of course. But seriously…Plike continues to prove just how much depth, skill and talent exists in this project through the expert slow-groove of “Rabbit Hole” and its expert production, structure & flow. The vocals whisper beautifully and dreamily…the atmosphere in the music is like an electro-version of The Cure’s entire catalog…melancholy melody that truly resonates and connects to our innermost emotions.
Em reminds me quickly just how much of a sucker I am for piano-led melancholy as “A Bottle Marked Poison” began. With a sample-vocal & crash breaking the song from the intro and into gear – I mean…c’mon people…this is powerful stuff! I love how I feel like I can genuinely feel each of the emotions in Plike’s music without having to grasp each and every word…the ones we do catch are beautifully haunting and entirely memorable. Just around the two-minute of “A Bottle Marked Poison,” she pivots just slightly and begins to make the most magical switch into one of the real highlight moments for me on Red Queen, White Queen…I thought this song ended on the strongest of notes throughout its entire final minute.
One of the most transformative and hypnotic atmospheres on this record exists on “Stage Five.” You could also make an argument for it being one of the most expressive tunes on the entire album without having any real ‘words’ but still having an incredible vocal performance to accompany the music. Proving the notion that the voice is truly an instrument…everything you hear on “Stage Five” sounds absolutely breathtaking from the microphone. Combined with the electro-string combination and subtle beat…”Stage Five” weaves, evolves, builds and grows in really rad ways to listen to. I found this was another incredibly captivating tune that really let my mind wander right into the Plike universe.
Good progression and great production on “Dust,” which is a track that gathers much of its steam as it builds. Another solid combination of the hazy, dreamy, tense & pensive atmospheres Em can create…and another fine example of how she can really let the power loose when the vocals step into the mix and the energy in the music rises around them. “Dust” kind of reminded me of some of the deadly last tracks or later-tunes you’d find on the early records from Garbage…great mix of electro and texture here…all layered out and designed in ways that audibly stick to you. Really gorgeous work on that electro-string line…at times it was all I could hear…truly beautiful stuff and accompanied by the way that the words drift out into the mix, “Dust” became a very powerful listening experience.
As far as I know from our interview with Em, the vocals we’ve been hearing on this record have been provided by Holly Drummond and Francesca Genco – so HUGE shout out to them because they have really brought their absolute best to this record in ways I could only imagine Em is extremely proud of and pleased with. Incorporating one more guest-star into the mix, ASH is featured on the final track “Headroom” to end Red Queen, White Queen on another spectacular highlight. Seriously…Plike has got a massive future if this is the quality we can expect and the depth of atmosphere that we can rely on…there are SO MANY places for music like this from playlists to soundtracks out there. I absolutely love the slow-burning intensity of this final cut and after listening to it complete, I can certainly vouch for Plike being one of the most extraordinary sounds we’ve uncovered throughout this year. Listen to the sparkling clarity in the production of “Headroom” and the absolutely stunning melody that runs through the theme of the music…the music of Plike has had me 100% mesmerized throughout the entire listen of Red Queen White Queen and I’ve certainly been going back for more on repeat since getting ahold of this record.
As a side-note…my shortlist for best new sound of 2016 seems to be getting longer…and there’s no doubt in my mind that Plike’s new record has all the uniqueness and professionalism in performance, writing and production that it doesn’t just belong at the top of my own list – it belongs at the top of yours too. The incredible atmospheres Em’s assembled are truly otherworldly, unique and breathtaking – everything about Red Queen, White Queen has a strong, bold checkmark in the win column.
47th Helen Album Reviews
Empathy for the Apathy: Plike's film-noir EP
Valerie E. Polichar, August 15th, 2015
A tinkle of music-box bells and an eerie sample: “Strange, children… they never forget.” Thus beginsPlike‘s EP Empathetic Apathy — its first track, “Attachment Theory,” an intoxicating brew of vocal samples, arcing string sounds and delicate electronica: a horror movie encapsulated in a song.
That ability to blend the delicate with the disturbing is a hallmark of Empathetic Apathy. Plike members Em and ASH select vocals with care to create their desired effects; vocalists sampled on the EP include Veela, Cory Friesenhan, Lokka and Maryam. Em produces, plays keyboards, and mixes; ASH crafts the audio engineering and mastering; the two work together to compose, arrange and sequence these articulate, engrossing pieces.
Despite the brevity of the album, Plike manages a coherent sound yet doesn’t get lost in stylistic ruts. Where “Diffidence” evokes classic ‘90s electronica and shimmery shoegaze, “Tripped Script” powerfully crosses a throbbing dubstep bassline with a Middle Eastern vocal sound. “The Clockwork Girl” has a science-fiction undertone (“conditioned via machines… imitations,” a low whisper warns), ghostly echoes and a shaken-sheet-metal bass, inducing a hollow, falling-through-space sensation in the listener. “Lessons in Futility” weaves characteristic sounds from the preceding tracks — gauzy vocals, dubstep rhythms, cold-war-style samples (“The bomb might explode without any warning. Duck!”) — with distressing back-alley screams, culminating in an explosion and the sinister conclusion: “You’re on your own.”
There’s a lot of excellent indie electronica available these days, making it harder for a band to elevate their sound above the pack or distinguish their message. On this haunting EP, Plike (the name is a contraction of Em and her sister’s childhood game of “pretend like,” appropriate to Empathetic Apathy’s film-noir cinematic narrative) seems to have found the recipe. We’ll be listening for more from this Austin, Texas duo.
Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A
Empathetic Apathy is available on iTunes and Bandcamp; tracks can also be streamed on Soundcloud. Follow Plike on Twitter at https://twitter.com/plikeproject.
The Even Ground
J. Simpson, September 18th, 2015
The attraction to dark subject matter is a strange and loaded contradictory impulse. Take horror movies, for instance - why would be want to see hapless strangers brutally massacred, while we ourselves run the risk of coronary failure? Or what about the attraction of a somewhat sadomasochistic relationship? How can something be simultaneously liberating and demeaning?
These are complicated questions that every lover of the morbid and macabre must ask themselves at some point. This is the dividing line - the crux - that Plike seeks to explore on their newest EP Empathetic Apathy. Austin, TX's Plike, the duo of programmer ASH and electronic music producer Mad Madam Em, are working firmly in the darkside, downtempo witch house/trip-hop continuum with occasional forays into drum 'n bass and dubstep territory.
Rather than being comprised of standout songs or singles, each track of Empathetic Apathy seems like a movement in a greater whole. The tempo stays close to stately, ponderous techno, dropping into double time when it needs to pick up the pace or switch up the action.
This is music for fogged-out Goth club dance floors. Music for festivals at night, under starry skies. Music for dancing, or music for walking and thinking. Music for romance, or getting over romance. Em and ASH are quite the competent programmers, slotting every trick and technique with Jenga-like precision.
The precise machinations of Em and ASH's production speak to my only minor quibble with this rather fine EP. It's all a little too perfect, a little too put together. Plike sticks to the verse-chorus-verse structure of big room techno theatrics, and, while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, it's very, very hard to stand out in the mix.
Consider the elegant, elegiac strings of "Diffidence," a gorgeous and moving track. However, the strings seem to slide right out of the Eustachian canals, as loveliness is stacked on top of loveliness. You can picture people dancing in slow motion to its balletic beauty, but there's no tension, no conflict, no release. The drums are big and epic. The strings are slow and mournful.
I'm probably in the minority here, as I'm sure tens of thousands of people wearing big black pants with lots of straps would be drooling blood to dance to Empathetic Apathy, as a lifelong fanatic of the darkside, the romantic, as well as anthemic electronic music, I know they are capable of even more. Let's hear it!
The Snap Download
Dark Beauty of 47th Helen
Adriana Sabo, April 1st, 2015
What happens when your mind is so overwhelmed by trauma, stress, fear and pain? When it shatters into pieces, removing the ground under your feet? Mad Madam Em is interested precisely in musically describing this state of instability and uncertainty. Mad Madam Em is a songwriter and electronic music producer, as well as the creator of P’like. Her story is one that must be told to the generations of girls who are to grow up into strong, independent women.
The musical career of Mad Madam Em began around 2003, when she started playing bass in an experimental industrial band from San Diego named Bishop Buzzkill. A couple of years later, Em turned to playing synths and finally moved to drum programming and sequencing. That is how she gained enough experience and knowledge to create P’like at the very beginning of 2014.
The first album by Mad Madam Em as P’like is titled 47th Helen and it tells precisely the story of breaking (mentally) and–which is even more important–of how society treats those that it ruthlessly labels crazy, unstable, less-than-human, unimportant and something that must be removed from society’s eye. As Mad Madam Em explains, the album “tells the story of Helen, a woman whose psyche has fractured due to painful traumas in her past. Confined to a psychiatric hospital, Helen’s different personalities tell of her struggle with depression, addiction, fear, and self doubt.” What makes this album even more important is that it was inspired by Em’s own struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The fact that she decided to address this problem–one that affects 7.7 million adults in the United States only–deserves respect. 47th Helen is a 9 track conceptual album, created through the contrast between “natural” sounds–like the human voice–and other sounds that are highly artificial. Emma, Katherine, Persephone, Claire, Temperace, Bridget, Dierdra, The Baroness and Lucy tell their stories through beautiful, meditative and deep electronic music that is dark, and yet, at the same time, has a certain fluttery feel. It tells us that Helen is a gentle soul who has sunk deep into a darkness that has imprisoned her mind and her soul. The tracks on 47th Helen are presented as part of a whole. Each track is independent, yet its true meaning is revealed only in the context of all other tracks. Just like the women after whom the tracks are titled are intertwined, and are all, essentially Helen, so the music of each song gets its true meaning only as part of one single whole. It is also not a coincidence that 47th Helen tells a story about a young woman. Helen is not a universal symbol of human suffering, but should be understood primarily as a token of female struggle.
I see an important feminist critique in the music of 47th Helen, since it addresses an important question of “female craziness,” shedding a cold and unforgiving light on the fact that even in this day in age, women are still deemed unstable and weak and that many of us still endure pain and suffering that is inhumane and often ruthless.
The Equal Ground
J. Simpson, March 25th, 2015
47th Helen from Austin, TX's Plike sounds like a gloomy electro soundtrack to Alan Moore's V For Vendetta, if the occupant of room 5 happened to be a little girl with emotional problems.
47th Helen, the first solo record from Plike, is a short, conceptual EP about a character named Helen (or is it?), who's been sequestered in a psychiatric hospital, undergoing untold experimental treatments that leaves her identity in fragments. Each track is named after one of the personalities - The Baroness, Temperance, Emma, Persephone and Lucy. Each part is more like a piece of the whole rather than individual tracks, which suggests that perhaps "Helen" isn't as fragmented and damaged as she might believe. It also makes this EP flow more like a DJ set or mixtape, which is no bad thing.
Plike is the creation of the mysteriously monikered EM, who started out playing bass in a rock band, before moving on to the experimental industrial outfit Bishop Buzzkill, where she learned how to play keyboards and sequence, then moving on to drum programming. The sound is in the orbit of the rigid trap sound with the gauzy, spectral séance of witch house, which I miss to the depths of my soul.
Woolen, thudding ponderous beats meet staccato strings - similar to Beyonce's "Flawless" - with the ethereal vocals of Veela from the band Blackmill, whose samples appear throughout, along with the requisite old newsreel footage and documentary snippets about psychiatric drugs and mental treatment.
I won't beleaguer the fact that EM is a woman, except to say:
1. It's nice to see a lady producer. I know there are probably tons and tons of them out there, and I just need to dig. But recently I googled "female techno producers" and the results were so scarce it was embarrassing.
2. There is nothing stereotypically "feminine" about 47th Heaven, which is dark and brooding as they come, but there is an airy and ethereal air, mainly in the vocal samples, and light, chiming, childlike samples, which creates some lovely, haunting cognitive dissonance, and is a welcome respite from the normally thuggish and leaden sounds of trap, grime and witch house.
Electronic music can be a bit of a boy's club with an emphasis on gadgets and gizmos and flashy tech, but it needn't be that way. Do a quick scan of any dance club anywhere, and ask yourself how much ladies like dance music. In fact, it is one of the genres that has the greatest capacity for true androgyny with its emphasis on futurism and transcendence. We all are one in the machine. So I applaud EM and encourage her to keep going!
Plike is short for "pretend like," a game of make-believe EM played with her sister, growing up. This short and very sweet EP reminds us that we need not give up childish things when we grow old, nor do we need let our hearts die. Instead, our imaginations grow richer, more fertile and we're more capable of bringing those fancies into the real world.
Plike is off to a banging start, so climb on board now, before you have to dole out $350 for SONAR or Burning Man.