Plexi was formed in 1993 by former University of Southern California film student Michael Angelos. His friend Michael Barragan joined the band and the two began writing together. Seeking spiritual guidance, they attended a Taoist retreat, where they discovered drummer Norm Block. Block, who had recently defected from the California cult to which his family had belonged to since he was a child, was at the retreat for the same reasons as Angelos and Barragan. The three then moved in together and began to experiment with yoga and hermetic alchemy. The result: Two EPs with some small Los Angeles-and Seattle-based labels and their first full-length release, Cheer Up, with Sub Pop records.

How do Nirvana's power chords, Trent Reznor's dreary lyrics and Radiohead's sonic guitar work sound when all placed together? While this comparison hardly addresses all of Plexi's sounds, it is the most accurate description using big-name bands. Thus, Plexi could easily be pioneers in sonic rock, the future of alternative music.

The most impressive aspect of the CD is the dynamics of the album. This CD has two requirements: a pair of stereo headphones and 40 minutes to listen to the whole thing. Cheer Up is not the kind of CD in which you flip to a certain track, but rather the kind you put in the CD changer you have in your trunk for the long drive home. Each track will provide all emotions experienced from listening to many music genres, from folk to hardcore. The album almost tells a story, with each track being a chapter containing unpredictable changes which keep the listener in a deep trance.

Cheer Up  opens up with "Forest Ranger," probably the most impressive track. The digitally enhanced "Roller Rock Cam" peacefully brings "Peel" with its slow repeating bassline and stereo effects. "Bunny" has its elements of gothic rock in it and adds a somber feel to the Cheer Up  novel. The happy ending comes with "Star Star," which is one of the few acoustical tracks, containg cellos enhancing the bass riffs.

Not many bands can be thought of as helping music's progress. Plexi's latest release has indicated the direction that alternative rock should be taking. Any appreciator of current rock music will enjoy Cheer Up . And if that is not convincing enough, according to Sub Pop Records, Plexi is Keanu Reeves' favorite band.

-- Anand Prabhakar

This item appeared in the Arts & Entertainment section of the January 17, 1997 issue.

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