[B]'Trainer'[/B] hits the ground running and the head like a rock.

Losing the thread here is a very real risk. If [a]Plaid[/a]’s music is an exercise in electronic disorientation, then their story is equally labyrinthine, a slow unravelling of mistrust, disarray and constant mutation. When legendary bleep trio The Black Dog split bitterly in 1995, creative core Ed Handley and Andy Turner had already generated an alarming volume of ‘side-project’ work, from 1991’s ‘Mbuki Mvuki’ album to the synaptic nightmares lurking behind aliases such as Atypic, Balil and Tura.

Considering copies of ‘Mbuki Mvuki’ now sell for #250, double-CD ‘Trainer’ ties up the loose ends without devouring loose change, invaluable for the uninitiated and a self-help mechanism for [a]Plaid[/a] devotees with more money than sense. A state of affairs that, given their mind-splattering idea of fun, is quite understandable.

‘Trainer’ pushes the thought that [a]Plaid[/a] are the missing component in the Aphex/Paradinas axis – it’s not mere artefact, electro-Masonic marginalia and cryptic codices, but vibrant testament to their genetic influence. Through Balil‘s data-encryption blues ‘Whirling Of Spirits’, Tura‘s hard-shoe shuffle ‘Letter’, whatever the alias, the weird clockwork syncopation remains the same. Included in full, ‘Mbuki Mvuki’ is superb, employing a strange techno-superstring theory to stay ahead of its time. Tracks like ‘Scoobs In Columbia’, living La Vida Loca in bizarrely anagrammatic style, indicate playfulness, but it’s the bilious light cast on sound-stage landscapes like ‘Summit’ and ‘Link’ that glows on today. For anyone interested in artificial intelligence, ‘Trainer’ hits the ground running and the head like a rock.