A man in a suit of mirrors walks down a dark highway, reflecting the light of passing headlights into a pitch-black sky.
Reduction Plan is the main venture of CT musician and friend of the blog Dan Manning and is often joined by similar friend of the blog Luis Durango onstage (and potentially in the studio? Who knows! I’m working on a Reduction Plan exposé to answer these questions, so stay tuned). Solo or together, Reduction Plan makes dark rock songs heavily based upon guitar and drum machine work with the occasional flash of synth and loop-based noise interludes. Their newest record, Somewhere, was released this summer.
Buried beneath the 80s-inspired guitar and standoffish, gothic flair lie the architectural basis of great pop songs, learned from years of practice and listening. Dan and I have bonded over many bands that I feel have keys to the basement of Reduction Plan’s foundation, from basics like The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen and New Order, to contemporary favorites like Have A Nice Life, Merchandise, and Black Marble. So going into it, I knew the influences were there. All these groups have made obviously incredible pop songs with varying shades of darkness etched into them. There’s no doubt those pop sensibilities would also carry over with the overall aesthetic that Reduction Plan drapes over their own work. The guitars shimmer, shake and smash, the drum machine plods along with a minimal, yet necessary accompaniment, and Dan’s droning vocals keep the nihilistic goth feel alive and well. What I’m trying to say is that Somewhere falls in line with the dark, post-punk lore that has stretched for years before this, marking itself a worthy addition to the catalog.
“Dreams In Blue,” is the first track that really stuck out to me, since it’s the best overall “guitar” song on the record. It also adds another player into the RP lore, Ryan Kalentkowski, who adds guitar work to the track. Thanks Ryan! The melody ebbs and flows like a rough patch of sea, arcing into a high register before quickly dipping down to a crushing, resolving chord. It’s a moving melody, one that takes the listener on a journey and sets it apart from other murky tracks that populate the rest of the record. It has a steady tempo (not too fast to slam, not too slow to stifle), a big resounding “for whom the bell tolls” / “clock strikes midnight” dirge stomp joins a muted drum machine to keep time, and the ghostly vocals in the back add more ambiance than anything. Definitely a great rock song for when you’re in the mood to light candles and sit alone in a nice chair.
I meant to write about the record here sooner, but it honestly didn’t feel right to write about something like it at the time of release. The music of Somewhere is not fit for light summer listening, at least not for someone of my stature. Projects from Vince Staples, Washed Out and Kirin J Callinan had just come out. I was listening to Japanese city pop. Not now, Reduction Plan. Catch me with the candles and nice chair later.
Going back to the draft of this post now was natural. It’s in the waning days of October and despite the weather on the East Coast being unusually humid and rarely dipping below 60º, it feels infinitely more appropriate to start getting people talking about Reduction Plan. This is music made for fast-approaching evenings, deep shadows, great sunsets, central heat getting fired up, layered clothing, the whole fall package. Just check out the song “Autumn,” the most upbeat and pop-leaning song on the record. Doesn’t that make you wanna ride a bike down a leafy path at sunset, racing against the clock? I sure can.