Plantagenet 3 – Modern Myths and Fairy Tales

Plantagenet3 - Modern Myths & FairytalesThere’s something about instrumental bands and three-pieces; I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps more members than that tends to clutter things. And clutter is something that London’s Plantagenet 3 eschew: their spare, minimalist compositions are clean and precise, though they lean towards fluidity rather than the starkness of math-rock.

On early listens I found a lot of the songs sounding remarkably similar: the band are light on effects and for the most part stick with the same instruments and amps throughout. But on repeat, closer listens, the ways in which each tune is stylistically different emerges more clearly. I’m not the most instantly thoughtful listener, perhaps, but the subtleties are apparent if you give these eight songs sufficient time and space.

During my research around Plantagenet 3 I learned that live each song the band play is introduced with a short story, contextualising what’s about. I have to admit that I felt the lack of this, and the absence of liner notes from this digital release, robbed the album of much of the thematic depth it was seemingly invested with. A spot of google-fu turns up the general subject of each tune, but without that almost auto-biographical introduction I still feel that I’m missing something.

That said, even without said context the songs stand apart from one another. A few highlights included ‘Surf Route 101 Revisited’, which has a overt surf vibe with a faintly sinister edge ala. The Cramps though without their sick punk groove. This isn’t the only song which evokes a mood apparently contrary to what its title might indicate: ‘Race to the Moon’ is one of the album’s funkier, pacier numbers, with the tempo upped a few notches, but sounds too cheerful to be about something as historically odd and competitive as the space race between the USA and USSR. At times, though, I suspect this might be deliberate, as with ‘The Mechanical Turk’. The eponymous Turk was a fake chess-playing machine built in the 18th century; on an initial listen I felt I wanted to write that it had a clockwork feel to it, but it emphatically does not. But given that the Turk was in fact operated by a man hidden inside the machine, isn’t the song’s more organic feel fitting?

There’s a lot to Modern Myths and Fairy Tales that I’ve yet to unpick, and I’m sure plenty more than I never will. There are a couple of string-based tracks, ‘Cantus for Strings’ and ‘Invention for Strings’, and given the general thoughtfulness of the album as a whole I continue to wonder at their significance. Then there’s ‘Nocturne’: the term traditionally refers to musical compositions inspired by the night, but surely there’s more to it than that? One song that I do feel comfortable describing is ‘Goodnight, Checkpoint Charlie’, simple because it’s my favourite tune present. Not because I’ve understood whatever it has to do with or say about the fall of the Berlin Wall as the title implies, but simply because the song revives a surfy feel, invests it with a momentous edge, and through the use of a little delay/sustain forms a memorable, hooky whole.

This record is obviously one for those who enjoy sinking into and thinking about the music they listen to; it’s something that can be engaged with at a deeper listen. It’s not terribly immediate, but I suspect that were this the case something might have gone a little awry.

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2 Responses to “Plantagenet 3 – Modern Myths and Fairy Tales”
  1. Tasha P3 says:

    Thanks Shaun, this is a very well written piece. Charlie’s my favourite too. Will let you know when more shows booked, come say hello.

  2. Shaun CG says:

    Hi Tasha, thanks for dropping by! Yes, please do let me know about any shows you have down Brighton way.