Music

Mark Pritchard: Under the Sun

Under the Sun is Pritchard discovering his own voice through the voices of others who continue to inspire him today.


Mark Pritchard

Under the Sun

Label: Warp
US Release Date: 2016-05-13
UK Release Date: 2016-05-12
Amazon
iTunes

Since 1991, Mark Pritchard has preferred to operate as an invisible hand behind UK's experimental electronic movement. Like fellow Warp label mates and West County citizens Tom Middleton and Richard D. James, Pritchard drew from the same habits of fearlessness, focusing on the freedom found in their gadgets and instruments restricted only by the absence of an imagination. Responsible for introducing electronic music luminaries, Matthew Hebert and Danny Breaks, Pritchard rarely sought credit or publicity for his influence and artistry. His most noteworthy contribution to the expansion of the musical canon was his best great and mighty Oz persona, New School Science, under the Jedi Knights moniker. Still cutting their teeth as musicians and producers, Middleton and Pritchard summoned the spirit of George Clinton and '70s funk in place of the rising IDM genre. Dance music went the same direction as free jazz had succeeding be-bop in the '60s. IDM has a place in the ever-expanding art form, but from Pritchard"s perspective, dance music had lost the narrative along the way.

Equally guilty, however, Pritchard is a producer with the spirit of a collector and a curator. Drawn to the same heady ambient landscapes and jungle rhythms as his fellow collaborators, unable to shake his techno and grime roots, his curiosity for electronic music's rich history seeps into nearly every pore like fragmented memories on his most recent release, Under the Sun. The strength of Under the Sun rests with his continued spirit of collaboration and his eclectic style, recognizing the endless possibilities of infusing pop elements into electronic music's abstract spirit.

A restrained Thom Yorke accompanies Pritchard's marimba rhythms and Massive Attack mood on "Beautiful People", rivaling the power of Yorke's most impassioned performances found on any record on the other side of Kid A. Like Yorke's tender delivery, the flute loop haunts from the very beginning, relenting only for brief moment when a swell of Yorke's angelic layered backing vocals ascends before the loop remerges for one final time. Linda Perhacs reaches deep into the spirit of her psychedelic folk past on "You Wash My Soul", a track that could easily be mistaken from her Parallelograms-era. Likewise, her whispery vocals and serene sentiments expose a side of Pritchard rarely revealed: vulnerability. Where Yorke's voice liberates Pritchard's track, Perhacs spooks like strong winds before a storm. Yet, even more compelling is how anonymous he seems during both Perhacs' and Yorke's efforts. If either track was released under any other name, the assumption would be that each song belonged to the vocalist, especially on how each track fits inexplicably well.

Rapper Beans borrows heavily from Saul Williams on "The Blinds Cage", and the last word in the title borrows heavily from its namesake, John Cage. More subdued than on other efforts, his words, on the other hand, are not. Confounding lines like "Since our birth we slowly die" and "I beseech the heaven"s to quench my desire", Beans narrates his hero's hope for freedom and the unendurable means he must take in order to attain it. Spoken word would appear suspiciously out of place, or forced, on Under the Sun, but it is neither. It works without the pretentiousness usually associated with tracks like this one. Again, Pritchard floats behind the track like a faceless collaborator. He plays with sci-fi tones that move in a flat circle. The song, like its narrative, ends unresolved, moving away with more questions than answers.

Making every attempt to maintain his private disposition, "Khufu" takes from the language of Aphex Twins' Selected Ambient Works, Volume II: formless, emotionless timbres, and unimposing drones fill the spaces slow tempo like shallowed breathing. On the other hand, "Cycles of 9" sounds like a tip of the hat to composer Steve Reich, matching his veneration for simplicity, except here he blends acoustic elements with electronic ones. Although blended, each instrument is distinctly recognizable, from organs to strings to horns. Dominance exists in the balance of Pritchard's compositions, and "Cycles of 9" underscores this approach on this and every track on Under the Sun.

In 2013, Pritchard released three EPs that reprised his enduring love for techno, house, and jungle, also blending future beats aesthetics, making him just one of many in a crowded genre. Under the Sun is Pritchard discovering his own voice through the voices of others who continue to inspire him today. Twenty-five years into his undaunted career, he has created an album that brings him proudly from behind the curtain and into the foreground for all to appreciate.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.