Manchester trio Plank! released a debut album entitled 'Animalism' in 2012 and elaborate on these themes of nature with the follow-up 'Hivemind', a superb album inspired by "the millions of arthropods without which our global eco-system could not survive." And indeed the 10 track LP is rather insect-like in a lot of ways: its movements are rhythmically odd, it has many legs, and like some insects, it is also capable of flying exploratively.
Right from the outset, new drummer Liam Stewart makes his presence known with some outstanding work behind the kit as 'Grasshoppers From Mars' provides a vigorous opener. Progressing engagingly throughout, a hard, disciplined rhythm establishes odd, jerky time signatures, and stimulating guitars jostle with blurting synths, creating luminous atmospheres. The magnificent 'Aphidelity' is an essential slice of European-flavoured intergalactic disco, marching into the cosmos with authoritative power.
On the weighty 'Dark Web', they play with brooding post-rock before bursting into furious riffage in between intricately jerky rhythms, a trick also used to brilliant effect on 'Swarm Behaviour', where frantic drum fills and cloudy atmospheres meet massive, earworm guitar hooks, evolving masterfully throughout. Only four tracks in, and 'Hivemind' has already visited a variety of places, keeping the listener constantly occupied with the shifting structures, recurring rhythms and impressive dynamic instincts. Like its title suggests, 'Metamorphosis' is a blossoming wonder that glows with an uplifting, energising beauty, while the stunning 'Moth Lover' takes flight through glistening trails of synth and beautifully organic acoustic notes, ascending higher with its driving rhythms.
'Drone' provides a dazzling, mesmeric soundscape before the entrancing space age pulse of 'Waterboatman' slowly and solemnly grows into a haunting, panoramic earworm. Another side to the trio is revealed on the warm, tender piano and bass notes on 'Cricket', where an emergence of uplifting synth patterns segue into the brilliantly accomplished and instinctively arranged epic 'Kephri', an immense climax that ends the album with an exhilarating bang.
A masterfully crafted blend of prog, post-rock, electronica and Krautrock, 'Hivemind' succeeds in exploring structural possibilities and forever journeying to different habitats, yet it's also a cohesive set of songs that fit together superbly as one inspired idea. 8.5/10