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Francis Plagne "Tenth Volume of Maps" Vinyl LP + free download $28 (L&L071) Add To Basket.


On his third longplayer Tenth Volume Of Maps, Melbourne-based songwriter/sound-tinkerer Francis Plagne has taken it out of the bedroom and into the studio for the first time. Engineered by drummer Joe Talia and featuring inspired arrangements and performances by his live band (plus various guests from Melbourne's fecund experimental music family-tree), the resulting sonic palette is rich, with the songs taking on a more purposeful, orchestrated feel than 2005's lauded debut Idle Bones and its eponymous follow-up.

With McCartney, Nilsson and Veloso well within earshot, Plagne has re-pledged his commitment to the song form and taken a more compositionally integrated approach than the sonic experimentation and wild oscillations that marked his first two albums. In embracing the fidelity of the studio and bringing his own voice into focus amid fields of gorgeous instrumentation, Plagne has further bridged the gap between the conceptual and the accessible.

This time around, there's less splicing of sounds and more construction, layering and complexity, whilst delving further into a fascination with the interplay of melody and rhythm — aspects demonstrated by the young composer as inseparable from the timbre and texture of the instruments that realise them. As ever, Plagne is mindful of his musical history (on 'Cilio' paying tribute to the held tones of the song's Neapolitan minimalist namesake) but in looking to his influences, continues to flourish in extraordinary new ways.

(Side A)  1) Row, Oarsman, Row  2) Black Hand  3) Spun Six Circles  4) Oranges  5) Cilio
(Side B)  6) Pillow Hill  7) Yesterday Sponge  8) Features  9) Two Fishing Civilians

Personnel: Robbie Avenaim, Ned Collette, Samuel Dunscombe, Dale Gorfinkle, Judith Hamann, Connal Parsley, Anthony Pateras, James Rushford, Joe Talia and Kim Tan

Francis Plagne — Spun Six Circles by Lost And Lonesome

"Melbourne, Australia’s Francis Plagne has entered an actual recording studio for the first time in his career and emerged with a more song-oriented and less experimental affair than his two previous full-lengths. With a nod or two to McCartney to help things go down easy, Plagne nevertheless has created one unique sounding album. Tenth Volume of Maps is pop enough to be palatable, but experimental enough to keep everything interesting and unpredictable. It includes a number of memorable tracks, namely “Spun Six Circles”, “Row Oarsman, Row” and “Features”. The nearly 10-minute “Yesterday Sponge” recalls Plagne’s more experimental side, but without betraying the song-driven vibe found elsewhere. 8/10" PopMatters


Why should brazen abstraction and classic pop be strange bedfellows? In the hands of Melbourne’s Francis Plagne, the two blend into a smooth, translucent whole. Though more pop-minded than his previous work, Plagne’s third album doesn’t skimp on structural twists, puzzling lyrics and the odd lurch into free-form clatter. Recalling US tinkerer David Grubbs’ most recent albums, as well as the solo output of visionary Van Dyke Parks, Plagne skews his polite baroque pop towards coy experimentation and arrangements as understated as they are prone to mutation.

Working with his live band – bassist Connal Parsley, cellist Judith Hamann, violinist/arranger James Rushford and drummer/engineer Joe Talia – Plagne also enlists guests like Ned Collette and Anthony Pateras. Even with up to 10 players, though, these songs aren’t at all cluttered. The instrumentation is used sparingly, and Plagne’s cleanly lilting vocals and image-steeped lyrics take centre stage.

‘Row, Oarsman, Row’ introduces the album’s floaty softness and bristling turns alike, while the acoustic guitar-guided ‘Black Hand’ comes off folkier despite flowery strings. ‘Spun Six Circles’ is the real standout, offsetting breezy vocal harmonies and thumping piano and drums with mentions of “Turkey’s paroxysms” (a seeming reference to Herman Melville’s famous story Bartleby the Scrivener) and “corpse fishing a river”. Those lyrics are matched in strangeness only by ‘Cilio’ – a song whose instrumentation waxes and wanes until it finds its pop groove and later a great frazzled guitar passage – and the “decayed circus clowns”-citing ‘Features’.

The album’s centrepiece, meanwhile, is the near-10-minute ‘Yesterday Sponge’, which slips organically between rustling musique concrete discord and sheer haunted-house pop. That track aside, though, Tenth Volume of Maps is as affable and accessible as anything on Lost & Lonesome’s pop-fixated roster. Released on vinyl only (with download), the album feels like a handful of painstakingly crafted art objects. It may be precious – both as pop and as experimentation – but not overly so.

" Doug Wallen, Mess+Noise

"On the face of it, Francis Plagne's third release is a wistful bedroom pop collection, his light voice supported by bass, drums and a lush viola/cello string section. But moments of floating anomie betray its origins among Australia's avant garde, and Plagne and his comrades may be found elsewhere performing Christian Wolff or ultra-minimalist Wandelweiser composers. "Oranges" features beautiful prepared piano by improvisor Anthony Pateras, while the jaunty "Cilio" is named for the Neapolitan holy minimalist composer Luciano Cilio. Considered simply as pop, Plagne's songs have a wide-eyed quality. Rhythms plod but the sound is acoustically rich; Belle & Sebastian or The High Llamas come to mind, but Plagne is innocent of any knowing slickness. And his lyrics are a dada garden of non sequiturs, although it feels like not enough production time has been devoted to the vocals. Plagne's tuning could be firmer, and his delicate voice, not a million miles from Sufjan Stevens, needs beefing up in the studio. But on the album's B side Plagne starts to fool around more. "Yesterday Sponge" drifts from dreamy location recording to cello and percussion drone, and finally into the song: "Stops at the giraffes/Yes sir, blue were their eyes/Like the fairy-flax was white". "Features" has a lovely melody, and for the closer "Two Fishing Civilians" the group let their hair down for a doo-wop swing. Something of a latter-day Van Dyke Parks, for me Plagne convinces most when he lets his experimental side roam." Clive Bell, Wire

"If something is any good itís usually an homage to something old. Most of the time these throwbacks only offer further proof that the human race has run out of ideas and that rats and weeds will soon dominate the earth. In rare instances, recreating styles of the past can be so sincere, so effortless and imaginative that to mention influences seems a little insulting.

In a generation that wears its inspirations on its sleeve, Francis Plagne stands out as a revivalist with credibility. Most reviews of his music will mention the Beach Boys and Tropicalia. And I hate to stray from the pack.

Beach Boys!


Without a doubt, Plagne has listened to Tropicalia. His use of augmented, languid chords lifted by rich string arrangements definitely have their roots in 1960s Brazil. His voice doesnít quite waiver, but sits intimately uncomfortable, rambling through surrealist imagery, leading the band through dislocated sections of calm and confusion.

I donít really hear the Beach Boys. More I hear The Beatles, with a similar use of rising and falling counter-melodies in the chorus, like classic baroque McCartneyism. But then Tropicalia guys loved The Beatles too so I guess this makes sense.

While maybe not the catchiest song heís ever made, itís one that captures the two-worlds of his music, sitting somewhere between gold fm and make it up club. Pop concrŤte.

Itís such a relief to hear that being inspired by the 60s means you can be clever, experimental, and sound nothing like Jet.