Plaid members Ed Handley and Andy Turner are two English disc jockeys who have achieved success outside of the mainstream. Independent and unique, they have found a niche in the music underground, a feat that might seem akin to digging a hole and climbing into it. Yet they have remained keenly on balance and have not strayed from their slick and definitive groove. Droll by nature, the Plaid pair has taken a schizophrenic approach to discography credits, with pseudonyms abounding and remix confusion ad infinitum. Having worked as the Black Dog, Repeat, Balil, and Tura, among other titles, the two finally became known as Plaid in the 2000s. Although Handley and Turner shy away from the press, they enjoy describing their sound equipment and style. Unlike traditional musicians with strings, bows, and reeds, the Plaid sound reverberates from the software program MOTU, Macintosh computers and laptops, and Firewire technology.
Apart from his primary talent of mixing sounds, Handley is known to be a modest but capable keyboard player. After learning to play the recorder at an early age and listening to an eclectic mix of old standards including the Beatles and Ray Charles, his interest veered toward electronic music by the time he reached high school. Handley's Plaid mate, Andy Turner, played flugelhorn in his youth before turning to the edgy sounds of the techno mix. After graduation, each worked at day jobs before deciding to mix musical media for a living.
Starting as a duo in the late 1980s and calling themselves Plaid, Handley and Turner recorded a variety of experimental tracks. By 1988 they had joined forces with Ken Downie, with whom they recorded as a trio under the pseudonym Black Dog. The first published tracks from Black Dog were included on Artificial Intelligence, a compilation of work by various artists, released on Warp Records.
Handley and Turner next joined Downie on a series of albums, beginning with Virtual and Age of Slack, both in 1989. Black Dog appeared in 1990, followed by Stone Dog in 1991. Among the more prominent and well known of these early albums, Bytes appeared in 1992 along with Cost II and Vir21. The following year Black Dog released Temple of Transparent Balls, Vanttool, and Black Dog Productions. The trio followed up with Spanners in 1994. Not all to Plaid's liking, however, was Downie's more hip-hop/techno taste, which led in 1995 to a split between Downie's Black Dog Productions and the Handley and Turner twosome, called Plaid.
During their years with Black Dog, Handley and Turner continued to record as Plaid, and each honed his respective skill into a highly evolved form of electronica. The new genre, which fell under the label of intelligent techno, was intricate and sometimes melodic, representing techno music at its most rhythmic. Handley and Turner controlled an orchestra of computers with novelty and skill, creating a conglomeration of frequencies. At the lowest level, Plaid's digitally devised instrumentation is the output from laptop computers, synthesizers, a drum machine, tone generators, and a wavestation.
Even while joining forces with Downie as Black Dog, Handley and Turner retained their identity as a duo; still calling themselves Plaid, they recorded at times without Downie. Overall the Black Dog disc jockeys were known to record under a variety of creative names, with each avoiding his given name at all times. Discordian Popes and Balil Tura were favorite aliases of Handley, while Turner put out solo tracks under the various names of Atypic and Turic. Throughout this phase of production, Plaid was always the name on the credit whenever Handley and Turner performed exclusively as a duet. Similarly, Black Dog was an alias that made reference to Handley, Turner, and Downie in performance as a trio.
By 1991 Handley and Turner had released a seven-track debut album, credited as Plaid and called Mbuki, Mvuki. Few copies exist of the original vinyl recordings, which are regarded by technophiles as lost gems. The seven tracks from Mbuki, Mvuki were reprised in their entirety in 2000, and they were incorporated as the first disc of Trainer, a Plaid compilation on Warp Records.
Handley and Turner released Android, in 1995, their major label debut as Plaid, for Clear Records. After this release, and before another studio session ensued, however, Plaid began working for Warp Records. Notfor Threes, the Plaid debut on Warp Records, was recorded as the first part of a so-called Plaid trifecta, a series that encompassed Plaid's 1999 release Restproof Clockwork and a 2001 release called Double Figure.
As the Plaid following grew, Handley and Turner recorded the Peel Session for Radio 1. Studded with assorted remixes from earlier recordings, plus one original track, the sessions aired on John Peel's British-based radio show in 1998. In 2000 a second disk was added to the set, featuring re-mixed Plaid work from the early 1990s. In all, the two disks spanned six years, from 1989-95, including Plaid mixes and samplers, from the Black Dog years through the Plaid breakaway era. The selections on Trainer included solo tracks by Handley which were credited to Discordian Popes and Balil, as well as selections from Turner under the aliases Atypic and Turic. A third disk, slated to feature Downie's work, failed to make the final cut.
Double Figure, the third album in the Plaid trifecta, was released in 2001, and included a generous 19-rack repertoire from funk and jazz to avant-garde styles.
In the 1990s Handley and Turner solidified their identity in Plaid and made international strides in intelligent techno by the end of the decade. Their popularity continued into the 2000s, as the duo continued an ongoing professional affiliation with Bjork and remixed for mainstream recording artists and groups such as Blondie. In October of 2000 Plaid participated in Warp Records' Incredible Lighthouse Party, performing at London's Trinity Buoy Wharf Docklands. In August of 2001 Plaid made appearances in the United States at the Coachella Festival in Los Angeles, and opened for Squarepusher at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio. Plaid's ongoing popularity in the United States led to a Warp tour, including an April 2002 appearance at Club Warsaw in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in a show with Mira Calix, Keith Tenniswood, and Nobukazu Takemura. Other appearances that year included a stint at Manchester's Barbican and a ten-country "Magic Bus" tour with Warp. Plaid issued Spokes in 2003 and appeared at San Francisco's Bimbo's lounge in April with Scott Herren (alias Prefuse 73) and Andrew Weatherall. In April of 2004 Plaid made an appearance at the Deadbeat Weekender at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, England.
For the Record …
Members include Ed Handley , synthesizer and mixes; Andy Turner , synthesizer and mixes.
First organized with Ken Downie as The Black Dog, c. 1988-95; also heard with Mark Broom as Repeat; Ed Handley's individual recordings and mixes credited under the pseudonyms of Discordian Popes and Balil; Andy Turner's individual recordings and mixes credited under the pseudonyms of Atypic and Turic; known exclusively as Plaid, 1995–; Android, released on Clear, 1995; signed with Warp Records; heard with John Peel on British radio station BBC Radio 1, 1998; tours and appearances included Wexner Center, Columbus, OH, and Coachella Festival, Los Angeles, CA, 2001; Warsaw Club at Greenpoint in Brooklyn, NY, Barbican Club in Manchester, England, and Magic Bus tour, 2002; and Bimbo's in San Francisco, CA, 2003, and Deadbeat Weekender, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, 2004.
Addresses: Record company—Warp Records, P.O. Box 25378, London NW5 1 GL, website: http://www. warprecords.com.
Mbuki, Mvuki, BDP, 1991.
(As Black Dog) Artificial Intelligence, Warp, 1992.
Android, Clear, 1995.
P-Brane (EP), Warp, 2002.
Restproof Clockwork, Warp, 1999.
Trainer, Warp, 2000.
Double Figure, Warp, 2001.
Spokes, Warp, 2003.
Parts in the Post, Warp, 2003.
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Checked cloths were evident in many early cultures, however, the term plaid drives from Scottish Celtic culture of around the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Bonfante 1975; Barber 1991; Cheape 1995). The popularity of checked cloths in North America and the use of the word plaid to describe these cloths are almost certainly linked to the influence of Scottish immigrants from the late eighteenth century onward. The term is widely used in North America to describe a diverse range of checked cloths from heavy tartans and tweeds to fresh cotton ginghams. However, within Britain, plaid generally refers to either tartan or checked cloths similar to tartan. It also signifies a length of tartan cloth worn over the shoulder as part of the more elaborate forms of Highland Dress.
Origins in Celtic Culture
In the early Celtic culture of Scotland and Ireland, a type of shaped cloak known as a mantle was worn. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this developed into the simple, untailored length of cloth known as the plaid. Cheape further identifies that "plaids or plaiding were Scots terms used to describe the relatively coarse woven twilled cloth that might be used, for example, for bed coverings as well as garments" (p. 19). Indeed the Gaelic meaning for the word plaide is blanket, whereas the plaid as a garment tends to be referred to as a breacan, the belted
plaid, which was commonly worn by men in Highland Scotland. Women throughout Scotland wore the plaid as a large tartan shawl, a style that was popular until the mid-eighteenth century (Dunbar 1981, p. 125; Cheape 1995, pp. 3–20).
The Women of Edinburgh
Sir William Brereton, an English visitor to Edinburgh in 1636, described the dress of women as follows:
Many wear (especially of the meaner sort) plaids, which is a garment of the same woollen stuff whereof saddle cloths in England are made, which is cast over their heads, and covers their faces on both sides, and would reach almost to the ground, but that they pluck them up, and wear them cast under their arms. (Cheape, p. 19)
Plaid in Fashion
By the early nineteenth century, plaids in their original form were scarcely worn, though; in that era plaid cloth gained an international profile as a fashion textile. American mail-order catalogs from the nineteenth century indicate that plaids were popular for men's work-wear and day wear, and for making women and children's dresses and blouses (Israel 1976; Kidwell and Christman 1974, p. 58). The colorful, geometric designs concerned have become embraced within modern, sporting, or "homely pioneer" notions of American sartorial identity. This is linked to the fact that plaid shirts and jackets form part of the image of American male stereotypes such as lumberjacks and frontiersmen. It is also connected to the influential work of American sportswear designers like Claire McCardell and Mildred Orrick, who frequently used plaids in their designs of the mid-twentieth century (Milbank 1989; Yohannan and Nolf 1998). The embrace of plaid within American culture has influenced subsequent reinterpretations of it. For example, plaid has featured in cowboy, and work wear—inspired gay styles of the 1970s onward, as well as in the subcultural styles of skinheads, rockabillies, and punks. Plaid has also featured consistently in international designer collections, particularly since the 1970s.
Barber, E. J. W. Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Bonfante, Larissa. Etruscan Dress. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
Cheape, Hugh. Tartan: The Highland Habit. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1995.
Dunbar, J. Telfer. The Costume of Scotland. London: B.T. Batsford, Ltd., 1981.
Israel, Fred. 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalogue. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1976.
Kidwell, C., and M. Christman, eds. Suiting Everyone: The Democratization of Clothing in America. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974.
Milbank, Caroline Reynolds. New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989.
Yohannan, Kohle, and Nancy Nolf. Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998.
plaid, a long shawl or blanketlike outer wrap of woolen cloth, usually patterned in checks or tartan figures. Now a distinctive feature of the Highland costume, it was formerly worn in all parts of Scotland and in N England by both men and women. The early Celtic people excelled in dyeing and in Roman times wore gay, many-colored, checkered plaids, woven or sewed together in squares of different colors. Through the Middle Ages and until the 18th cent. the people of North Britain belted their plaids about them, the lower part forming the kilt, the upper part the cloak. A shepherd's plaid is of black-and-white check. A tartan plaid has crossbars of three or more colors combined in designs distinctive of the different Highland clans and serving a heraldic purpose. In modern usage plaid may signify merely pattern, as a plaid gingham.
See C. Hesketh, Tartans (1961); I. Grimble, Scottish Clans and Tartans (1982).
plaid / plad/ • n. checkered or tartan twilled cloth, typically made of wool. ∎ a long piece of plaid worn over the shoulder as part of Scottish Highland dress. DERIVATIVES: plaid·ed adj.