A Journal Of The Dark Arts
On his newest LP for Warp Records, Mark Pritchard gently drifts through every electronic music genre of the last 2 decades like a lazy river.
At his height, prolific Australian producer/DJ Mark Pritchard was operating under a mind-melting 8 pseudonyms, as well as playing in an additional 16 bands or collaborations, including his most well-known guises Global Communications and Harmonic 313, with each iteration focusing on its own unique intersection of the electronic flavors of the moment.
Pritchard’s permutations were always of the highest quality, bringing out the best of each genre. Still, the laundry list of styles, genres, and pseudonyms speaks to the atomized, fragmented nature of electronic music culture, in the 21st Century. This is part of what makes Under The Sun – Pritchard’s first full-length under his own name – such a striking achievement, perfectly summarizing all that is right and good about the current state of electronica.
Under The Sun kicks off with “?”, whose oily-black drones have been lingering for a massive 7 years – several geological ages in the fast-paced world of club music. “?” was originally the atmospheric A-side to the cavernous, hypnotic hip-hop stomkper “The Hologram”, which brings us back to the time when Bassnectar, The Glitch Mob, Kraddy, and edit were ruling the roost, despite being a slightly more subtle and graceful take on the festronica.
Tellingly, Under The Sun keeps the amorphous, analog drift, but strips out the beats, which are in short order on this record, instead focusing on a gorgeous, ethereal, drifting ambiance.
That’s not to say beats are non-existent on Under The Sun – there’s the dusted coldwave 808s of “Give It To Your Choir”, or the nearly martial drum machines of “Infrared”, with a quick, stuttering pulse instead of the usual 4/4 hackery of most shoddy drum programmers. This is part of what makes Pritchard such an exceptional producer/musician/arranger – this attention to detail. Pritchard’s performances are always top-notch, as is his gear, as is his production. This greatly enhances Pritchard’s ability to move seamlessly through genres, weaving the threads together in new and beguiling narratives.
Much has already been said about this being Pritchard’s “personal record”, especially with the presence of vocals on several tracks. The guest vocalists are definitely Under The Sun‘s heavyweight selling point, with features from no less than Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke – like Donnacha Costello remixing an A Moon Shaped Pool outtake on the excellent “Beautiful People” – as well as the artist formerly tagged as “folktronica”, Bibio, and fellow avant-folkie Linda Perhacs, sounding like Six Organs Of Admittance channeling Nick Drake in a dying galaxy.
With the presence of vocals – even by other people – it’s tempting to call this a personal record, but a more careful scrutiny leads one to suggest that there’s something more at work here. Consider the track name “Khufu”, named after the Second Pharaoh of Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty. Khufu is thought to be responsible for creating the Great Pyramids Of Giza. Are “Khufu”‘s chiming, ethereal drones meant to evoke the timelessness of the pyramids, or maybe be a bit of commentary of mankind’s hubris, a la “Ozymandias”?
Whatever the reasoning, Pritchard’s not saying. Instead, we return to Under The Sun over and over again, let its pulsing, warm, meditative analog synths wash over us, transporting us to distant times, far-off galaxies.
Albums like Under The Sun are a great example of what can be done, when genres are brought back together again, when we break down exclusive walls and foster open communication instead.
Under The Sun is out now on Warp Records
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Tune into every Sunday night/Monday morning for Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness @ Freeform Portland! Exploring the dark side of techno, hip-hop, shoegaze, metal, psych, folk, and soundtrack. You can listen to the archives online at mixcloud.com/for3stpunk.