PLUGH by Sceptre Fretpen

Release date: December 15, 2016
Label: Sparkwood Records

Am I listening to the right band? I seriously had to double check my player to make sure I was listening to Sceptre Fretpen and not Boards of Canada. They are so similar in their styles that I knew right away that I would love this album, and I do. Sceptre Fretpen are a duo based in Portland, Oregon. In December, they released PLUGH, a 7-track ambient, electronic soundscape. Although, when you go to the Bandcamp page you only see 6 tracks listed. If the 7th track is a bonus track, it’s not mentioned on the page.

I was curious to know what the word ‘plugh’ meant. When I tried to look up the definition for ‘plugh’ all I could find was that it’s a word used in a game from the 70s. I’m not sure if this is the band’s inspiration for the title or the album but I did find it interesting.

The tracks are not very long in length. The track with the longest length, ‘8th Floor’, comes in at 6:45. The shortest, ‘Recess’, comes in at 1:32. The other tracks go from 2 minutes to just over 4 minutes in length. All this to say that although this album might be short in length it definitely does not lack in substance.

The first track, ‘Thin Abyss’, is a cool beat driven track with a variety of electronic layering. I believe a guitar is also being used. Layers come in and out as gradual swells. The transitions in this track are DJ like, there’s a great transition at the 1:20 mark. The electronic sounds do make for a real chill-out experience.

It’s sometimes hard to tell in electronic music whether the instrument you hear is what you really think it is. I found that sometimes the case in this album. Especially since I am not familiar with the band and information on the band and what instruments they use seems non-existent. In the track, ‘In Odd increments’, I believe a delay effected guitar is being used as well as a bass. A bass drum and snare come in with lots of reverb and cymbal swells are added for good measure.

The track, ‘Diamond Center’, is an ambient track with deep sounding drones and modulated sounds. The mood set here is completely different from the first two tracks. Right at the end of the track the sounds change and so does the tone. It’s unexpected.

As mentioned before, ‘Recess’, is one of the shortest tracks. It begins with a vocoded robotic voice. A cool beat is reintroduced. It leads into the following track, ‘Insects’, nicely. The sounds in ‘Insects’ were wet in their texture, squishy like. The track, ‘8th floor’, is a collection of slow meandering ambient drones which ride on waves that rise and fall. It’s haunting in it’s tone that continues right to the end.

Then comes the elusive 7th track, ‘Year I Was Born’. It starts with two men reminiscing about an old camp ground and a road that was built the year one of them was born. The conversation continues in behind the electronic sounds and beat. The tone of the conversation is odd against the new age sound of the beat. It makes for a great juxtaposition.

I hope Sceptre Fretpen continues to release albums such as PLUGH.

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