Huerco S. Plonk Incienso
The last Huerco S. longplayer, 2016’s For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have), was a defining moment in electronic music, triggering a shift in the way a new generation of listeners – and critics – perceived ambient music. It was so impactful, that only a few months after its June release, Pitchfork named the record one of the best ambient albums of all time. Perhaps surprisingly, in an interview with Bandcamp last year, Huerco S. stated that he was, essentially, “over” the genre in which he made his name.
Plonk is the first Huerco S. album in six years, and the accompanying text makes clear that this is a “new world” for the Kansas City producer – specifically, a world inspired by his childhood love for rally cars. Knowing this, you’d be forgiven for expecting something mechanical-sounding: grinding gears, coarse textures, the frenzied energy of racetracks.
The reality of Plonk is much warmer and brighter. Huerco S. builds metallic textures with such a lightness of touch that the effect is less screeching motors, more tinkering and fine-tuning. Each track is named Plonk followed by a corresponding Roman numeral, and across much of the record is a symphony of synths and skittering percussion that recalls the likes of Barker or Objekt’s 2018 collection of propulsive, no-kick rollers. On Plonk I and VII, the twang of electronic strings creates a fluttering dissonance, and on Plonk IV and VIII, deep, rumbling bass hints at footwork and trap rhythms. Plonk IX, the album’s penultimate track and the first-ever vocal feature on a Huerco S. record, spotlights Washington DC artist SIR E.U, whose eerie, bristling spoken word breeds the most explosive track on the album.
This Huerco S. record might not be ambient music per se, but instead it fits the definition of ambient as a descriptor. Plonk is an encompassing atmosphere that envelops you in its burnished textures, and leaves you wanting more.