Plains Druid
Super Real Islands






Two-hour albums are hardly en vogue anymore, even if they are released as double disc tidbits. Prog Rock aficionados lament about this decisive evidence, major record labels have given up in this regard, and even netlabels largely tend to shy away from humongous travelogs. Blimey, from the listener's viewpoint, the solution is so easy: either self-release a digital-only album where the bits and bytes know no physical, computational or aesthetic boundaries, or come up with a good old tape. This is what Flagstaff, Arizona-based Jon McIntosh aka Plains Druid did previously with his lilac lilt of languor called Swag Demon (2013), released on Twin Springs Tapes. Now he is back with another tape, and this time it is sure enough a two-hour giant of processed electric guitars, Glitch globs, frequency fluxes and Ambient drones. Beat-based cross-linkages round the turbulent journey off. The name of the album: Super Real Islands. Released on Blue Tapes in a limited edition of 100 C125 tapes and available in a digital incarnation at Bandcamp, Super Real Islands features ten ridiculously long tracks and movements, some of them spliced in parts that each resemble the length of a whole Vaporwave album. Having been inspired by friends and family to fathom the only long-form track he came up with heretofore, the multifaceted Swag Demonic off the aforementioned Swag Demon tape, Jon McIntosh took these advices to heart and features a wide array of guitar coils coated in asbestus, alkaline beats and everchanging patterns. Super Real Islands sounds like a mess at first, but couldn’t be farther from it: the textures, once chosen, are set in stone, and although not petrifying, they make for an omnipresence, a ubiquitous thread to hold on to. I am going to take a look at this embroidery of threads below.


Biomechanical chirrs, synthetic chirps, Glitch-worthy high-rise frequencies: welcome to the concrete swamps of Super Real Islands whose very title is negated right with the first long-form panorama of a whopping 21 minutes. In lieu of realistic field recordings or cautiously captured sites, the untitled opener of side A is the astral counterpoint to Simon Scott’s Below Sea Level (2012), a vitreous-glacial granuloma of agglutinating crystal vortices, aggrandized dark matter bumps and aggressive wind gusts floating over the pristine scenery. The equilibrioception is still cleverly arranged: despite a few scything tone bursts and classic drum kit-infested vestibules to acataleptic antra, this first piece progresses and morphs. Whether it truly prospers, however, is up for debate, as the tone sequences become ever-darker, one can feel the electric current buzzing through the nucleic aureoles before the sustained buzzes of industrial catenae in tandem with bleepy laser pulses let this first trip come to a halt. The following piece is the first of two intrinsic collaborations with Wisconsinite Steve Targo aka Riot Meadows whose bubbling superfluids are juxtaposed with Plain Druid’s screeching guitar cannelure and a 90’s Glitchfest with bleepy hi-hats and snares. There are even 80’s handclaps in here! Hued in beryllium, shimmering silverly due to its extravagant luminosity, this collaboration is much more raspy and in-your-face-like than expected, exuding an asthenic, cauterized energy by elbowing every fluffy synth convulsion away. While this second track is thickly wadded in genuflected circular saw sizzles, A1 3 turns out to be the soothing foe, comprising of a ligneous rurality as spawned by the oneiric guitar tropicana. A laid-back hi-hat groove is ameliorated with helicoidal stardust gyrations, uniting Jon McIntosh’s love for the organic and the apocryphal viewpoint.


The triptych of side A is followed by another mercilessly prolonged gigavignette that is even spliced into two parts. The piece is simply called A2, but what it lacks in titular wideness, it gains in aural undercurrents and effulgence. An island feeling can indeed unfold freely due to seagull squawks, saccharified syrinxes, warped guitar drones and whitewashed pink noise eruptions whose earthquake-like impetus overwhelms the listening subject on the one hand, but also carries a meaningful benignancy in these bursts on the other. This is not a noise track for the sake of it, but supercharged with the very euphonious uplifting vibes that are so archetypical for a Plains Druid track. Stuttering drones are by their very definition no drones anymore, fair enough, but these ebullient arpeggio allusions delineate micro clefts and soothing – or rather seething – frizzles akin to fried ducks in a pan of soda. The second half of A2 is no different and unmistakably linked to the blotchy sphere, but much gentler, quieter and fragile. This impression is delivered with the same set of textures, with no additional antimatter imposed. The reason for the gauze-like haze is the diminished vigor, a softer moiré and decreased volume which lets the seagull-accompanied galactorama appear languorous, like a pipe dream… with, well, steamy pipes; artificial elements are the driving force after all.


On side B, the callisthenic endemics continue to thrive, even though the kick-off called B1 1 is a largely surprising devilish guttersnipe. Riot Meadows has his hands on this track once more, and what a track it is: a club-compatible 4/4 beat structure with rhythmical alterations is the strange, but not estranging harbinger for a beatless guitar solo full of cosmic blips and multiplexed paroxysms which make room for a percussion-underlined appendix, making the listener wonder about the ruthless prelude to this energetic cataract. It soon enough becomes clear what the fuzz is all about: side B is more or less guided by vesiculating beats, Jon McIntosh improves their austere Teutonism à la Gas with various post-processing effects that are also applied to the second installment of B1 which rolls along like a histrionic coquette: heftily reverberated metallic clangs and tachycardia task forces before the apex see cyber-rural guitar candles scintillating over spectral but good-natured synth cloudlets, with B1 3 schlepping itself forward in a slower, steamier way. Mucoid and severely heated, the polylayered guitar sinews spiral and reign freely before the track shifts into a curiously dry and way less echoey sun-dappled beat addendum.


B2 1 and B2 2 are the final pieces to the puzzle that is Super Real Islands, and it is here where a seemingly extrinsic vitality gains access to the island. Muffled samples of classical music, woodpecker cesspool sceneries, the return of the seagulls as well as a looped alto flute sample invoke an erudite erethism that is an astonishing counterpart to the syndetic synths. Naturally, the piece shifts once more and imposes humongous ocean waves, silvery cymbal galores and an otherwise breezy circumambience, but there is something in the air, a portent which is about to crash on B2 2, the conclusive gigantomachy which is sternly realized over the course of over 20 minutes. Pandora’s box comes to mind layer-wise due to the audacious multitude of incredibly metallic and hardened swooshes, mephitic longitudinal airflows and stokehold tendrils, the latter of which show yet again how Plains Druid oscillates between the diametrically opposite poles. This one shall not be described further. It has to be experienced.


Super Real Islands is a smasher of a long album, running for almost 120 minutes and on all cylinders, flying over large canyons only to flood them with spermatocystic high-energy protuberances that wash away the formerly natural habitat. Vestiges of vultures, remainders of crickets, these animals are all breathing and living on Super Real Islands, but the clash of elemental forces is a recurrent theme on all of its ten tracks, making it possible for the bystander to be both swallowed by the raw power and enchanted by the diaphanous ambience that runs as a golden thread through the Tartarean turmoil. Super Real Islands is very strong a title, the sequence of words sounds majestic, purposefully melodramatic and verdured all at once. There is only one problem with the pompous scope: real these islands are not. Acoustic guitars are seldom heard, if at all, as the power of electricity and neon coruscations are blowing over the insular dioramas. But these things are to be expected when listening to Plains Druid material. Both sides of the tape have in common that they are charged with Glitch blisters, droning high frequency oscillations, smoking soils and plinking planetary melodies, but side A is just a tad mellower, with side B bursting at the seams with beat riverbeds and chopped chunks. However, I might as well be wrong, especially so since side A features the same amount of transmutations and everchanging patterns. Despite these altered states, Plains Druid’s long tape presents a coherent listening experience with well-chosen sets of textures and no additional otherworldly surface that hits out of the blue, for the galactic/earthen dichotomy is already firmly in place, boundless and fixed at the same time. A chromatic tape.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 343: Plains Druid – Super Real Islands (2014). Originally published on May 21, 2014 at