I was dreading writing this review, dreading it. Like many other people, I've been at a loss for words since the World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies. Feelings of anger, shock, and sadness swirl inside my head. Watching CNN is the only thing I'm interested in right now. Eating? Writing? Listening to music? Forgot about it all, really. The last thing (and I mean that, THE LAST THING) I wanted to do was sit down and write about a new EP from a British band I'd never heard before. Hell, I haven't even listened to the new Mercury Rev yet, and I've been awaiting the release of that album for an eternity. I gave Somniloquy a spin or two before the attacks -- nice. Nothing mind-blowing, nothing I haven't really heard before. I pencilled in time to work on my critique of it on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Easy enough. Well, of course everything changed with the arrival of Tuesday September 11th, and I've been in a vegetative, incredulous state ever since. Now here it is Thursday the 13th. I've been listening to Somniloquy for the past hour, and the impossible (or what I thought was the impossible) has happened. For the first time in two days, my mind has gone somewhere else.
Simply put, this is a very rich and imaginative work. It is also not entirely Pram's. Plone and Andy Votel lend their remixing talents to the nine-song recording, reshaping and deepening tunes found on Pram's 2000 album Museum of Imaginary Animals, including "Bewitched" and "Last Astronaut". On first listen, one of course thinks of Stereolab. Lead singer Rosie Cuckston's lovely voice is very reminiscent of Laetitia Sandler's, as are a lot of Pram's musical ideas-spacey sound effects, archaic instrumentals, genre-blurring, etc. But on closer inspection you begin to realize their sound really stands on its own-it makes radical and abrupt departures (try "The Way of the Mongoose", which starts out like something from of an old black-and-white cartoon and ends on an almost neo-tribal note) into experimentation that miraculously never become pretentious (Stereolab can't really say the same thing). It also reveals new layers and interpretations with each subsequent listen -- the majority of the tracks seem to take on new lives depending on what time of the day you hear them at. Try the final song, "A Million Bubbles Burst" at morning and night and see if you understand what I'm saying.
Somniloquy is a wonderful diversion, simultaneously complex and mellifluous. It plays like a post-modern pop album gone on safari. If you're in the mood to spoil yourself with a CD shopping trip (Why not? Who knows what could happen in the coming weeks . . .), pick it up. I promise you a transporting experience.