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PARIS — If Ed Handley and Andy Turner ever gave up making music, they might consider comedy. Asked how they would describe their forthcoming album, “Spokes” (Warp Records), to someone unfamiliar with the electronica genre, Turner’s face sprouts a sly grin: “Unmissable,” he purrs.
And who do they hope buys it? “Your teenage children,” he offers, rubbing his hands greedily. “They have huge future purchasing power. Like Madonna, we want to capture the teen market. We’re going to move into children’s books next.” The two share a long laugh.
After 15 years recording together, first as the seminal Nineties outfit The Black Dog and more recently as Plaid, the English pair are as close to the music mainstream as they are to Madonna’s cell-phone number. While known to many in the vanguard of music and fashion — from Björk to Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane — they still sold a modest 50,000 copies worldwide of their most recent album, the dazzling “Double Figures.”
And yet, even at a low ebb for electronic music, Plaid stands out, given the longevity of the duo, their steady progress and efforts to make the genre as watchable as it is listenable.
Never monotonous or jarring, Plaid’s sound is full-bodied, bright and totally alive, burbling with humor, energy and moments of heart-stopping beauty. And their live shows, as a recent one at the Pompidou modern art museum here demonstrated, are proving that laptop gigs needn’t be as boring as, well, watching someone work on a computer.
Collaborating with one-name video whiz Bob, they projected swarms of birds against a forbidding sky while curls of smoke danced like a ghost. In November, they take their visual and sonic arsenal on an extensive U.S. tour with stops at the Bowery Ballroom in New York and the El Ray Theater in Los Angeles. Next year, they plan to launch a DVD of music and visuals, and they hope one day to do a film soundtrack, if ever any of their young fans lands an important job in Hollywood.
Turner’s “Can’t DJ” T-shirt suggests the duo’s penchant for casual streetwear, but they’re quite fluent in fashion-speak, expressing admiration for such designers as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Vexed Generation and even Hermès.
But wait. Isn’t Hermès, maker of the famous Birkin bag, a brand the Material Girl discovered first?
“She got it from us,” Turner quips. “She lives in London, too, you know.”