The 7th Plain Chronicles

The 7th Plain Chronicles
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Released in 2016, Chronicles I was the first in a series of archival retrospectives of Luke Slater's work as the 7th Plain during the 1990s. Chronicles II and III continued the series, and the three albums are now available from A-TON in a handsome box set. Those interested in, but unfamiliar with, Slater's more ambient side should find this compilation a welcome entry point (all of this material has been previously unavailable digitally), and serious fans will be pleased to know there's a good amount of previously unreleased material here as well.
 
There seems to be a chronological order to the compilation, with the most confident and fully-formed material (and the most beat-oriented) arriving on Chronicles III. Throughout, it's interesting to notice elements of Slater's more hard-hitting techno work sneaking in here and there. Tracks like "Lost" and "Think City" have some irresistible grooves driving their lush, analogue pads, for instance, and the appealing bounce of "T Funk States" breaks up the somewhat long-winded ambient material of Chronicles I nicely.
 
Indeed, most listeners will likely gravitate towards the second half of this compilation, but a retrospective wouldn't live up to its name without its less-developed material, and Slater has certainly earned himself the right to share his nascent talent with a set like this. The substantial unreleased material on Chronicles I and II should prove especially interesting to hardcore fans in this regard, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the artist's formative years.
 
It's also an interesting snapshot of a specific time and place in the history of British ambient and IDM. Aphex Twin's major ambient albums were released during this period, and you can hear the cross-pollination going on in some of the dual pad harmonies throughout Chronicles. For an even fuller appreciation of the golden strands of influence, listen to the album alongside efforts from the current generation of British ambient-techno artists (Daniel Avery perhaps); it's a rich tradition, and Chronicles is a compelling reminder that Slater's contributions shouldn't be overlooked. (A-TON)