An album such as Plantation both excites and frustrates in equal measures. Arrange is the brainchild of Malcolm Lacey, and on Plantation he seeks to meld together aspects of progressive rock, dub-step, and electronica, resulting in an altogether original and experimental sound.

Plantation is teeming with sadness and despair. Some of the best albums in recent years have come out of such places: Gavin Castleton turned his break up into a zombie rock opera with his album Home, and we have Bon Iver to thank for his debut LP showing a new generation that bleak times can be the warmest of places. These albums embraced their subject matter and acknowledged the truth that people hurt in their own ways, allowing listeners to make the music our own. This is how many great heartbreak albums have been successful. Plantation, sadly, is not one of them. This is not to say that this album is a failure, on the contrary, its most effective moments are truly beautiful. The main issue here is the fact that we are left without a shadow of a doubt the bases upon which this album lays itself, yet we are willed to rest upon lyrics which alienate and keep us out of Lacey’s world. Lyrics brimming with emotion in ‘Turnpike’, “Light myself on fire / I don’t want to be desired” are preceded by “Standing on the turnpike / Ready to run towards the boulevard” which isn’t exactly the most vivid of introductions to Lacey’s troubled world, and we get these clouded references throughout Plantation. Lacey broods, in the second song from the album, ‘Tiny Little Boy’, “I’m built out of hate”. The hate coursing through this album is self-loathing, which proves itself a hard sell as the listener emotes along, bobbing and swaying on a sea of both delight and darkness.

The album burns at its brightest when we are without the vocals that sometimes weigh down the album (in particular, the opening vocals on ‘Tearing Up Old Asphalt’ sounds exactly like the tune given to us in the preceding song, ‘Turnpike’). Piano loops haunt the album throughout it’s duration, and the most delicate moments shine through when the melody is carried by its soft, delicate tones, the piano interwoven with mellow electronica and harsh, fluid drums. ‘Golden Neighbourhoods’ comes forward as the album highlight with its simple piano melody laced with worrying synth notes, cut by white noise which seeks only to accentuate the beautiful subtleties of the track. After this song we are led into ‘Blinds With You’, a soundscape punctuated by all the things that make this album come together brilliantly at the right moments. But just as the song concludes in a fury of brazen drums and sonic delights, we kick into ‘Veins’, which reminds us exactly why this album doesn’t work. The vocals restart, and with Lacey’s blunted delivery we are once again faced with something which doesn’t quite work as well as all the other parts on offer here. The penultimate track, ‘Medicine Man’, remedies the earlier problems as the piano and drums find themselves dancing round a perfect marriage of beat and melody, with a vocal line that adds to the ambience of the song.

Arrange clearly is a project capable of producing truly wonderful moments of feeling and emotion, but these moments come most often when Lacey isn’t speaking a word. Plantation isn’t the success story it should be, but we are left without a doubt as to Arrange‘s ability to craft something special.