Sun 4 June // 20:00
Tickets: £12 advance
Pram have a working process that has developed over many years and reflects shifts in band personnel and technological advancements. They have always sounded like they make up their own rules, including an inventively open approach to rhythm and timing. Pram’s music has often showed a penchant for miniature sounds including melodica, tuned percussion and stylophone. Often seemingly under-produced, with a raw energy and playfulness to their tunes…
The band use a bewildering array of instruments and are unrepentantly unfazed by the possibilities of performing on anything and everything that seems appropriate. “It’s not possible to develop a facility on every instrument we want to use” explains founder member and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sam Owen, “so we simply don’t worry about it and look instead for the initial thrill of discovering a new sound”.
As with previous albums, Across the Meridian mixes instrumentals and songs, weaving a gleeful path through the musical territory of film scores, 30s jazz, sun-drenched pop, electronica, hip hop sampling and post-punk experimentation. Owen’s haunting and wistful voice is set in a variety of soundscapes, sometimes appearing as a snatched fragment of the subconscious and dreamlike, at others crafting a story of longing or regret, drawing the listener into Pram’s uncanny world through the mirror.
Over the years, Pram have expanded their ideas to encompass disorientating shifts in mood and texture, which help make Across The Meridian one of the more original albums of 2018. The instrumental opener ‘Shimmer And Disappear’ is a storm of sounds, music and images, featuring a brass melody that come across like a 1960s film soundtrack to a scene in a bustling Moroccan market before leaping stylistic boundaries into a chorus like something Joe Meek might have cooked up.
Pram also make the listener lose their bearings in more subtle ways. A strange melody line on the eerie ‘Electra’ creates an ethereal human voice out of a manipulated flute sample. In Where the Sea Stops Moving, trombonist Harry Dawes plays theremin in a duet with Owen’s voice over a shifting soundscape of ebbing and flowing electronics, distant piano and the chiming of ancient timepieces in a sonic scenario that conjures up recitals in strange parlours. It calls out for a Quay Brothers animation as visual accompaniment.
Guitarist and samplist Matt Eaton explains why the music works so well as a soundtrack to the imagination. “There’s a huge interest in the band in collages of sound, triggering emotions in people. That’s part of the experimental end of what we do, but we bring it to our more conventionally structured songs as well so that each one grabs you and you live in its world whilst you are listening.”
To record the album, the band convened at the remote Foel studios in Wales to improvise on ideas and record some bases for tracks, before finishing them in their studio in Birmingham. Eaton admits that it’s been a lengthy process.
“Since it was possible to record an LP at home on tape we’ve been doing this – cutting up tape, arranging, re-recording and basically writing in the studio,” he says. “This is part of our process. It doesn’t make sense for us to go to a commercial studio and walk away with the finished product.”
Pram are essentially a product of the post-punk 80s, inspired by the likes of The Raincoats and The Slits and the way that those groups, as Eaton puts it, seemed to have “invented their own way of playing music”. Similarly Pram have always sounded like they make up their own rules, including an inventively open approach to rhythm and timing. And on Across The Meridian their use of theremin and the manipulation of instruments also adds a certain harmonic wooziness.
drunk-minimal / hypnotist-un-rock based at the ventriloquistic intersection of barrow gurney and old market.
DAVE HOWELL DJ (130701 / FatCat Records)
After writing fanzines in the ’90s, Dave Howell has been A&R-ing at FatCat since the label began, way back in 1997. These days Dave lives in Portishead and looks after the 130701 imprint – the wing of the label based around adventurous artists using classical instrumentation in new ways, which has been home to the likes of Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hauschka, Dustin O’Halloran, Ian William Craig, Clarice Jensen, etc.
Airing once a month, A Dream Across the Border (1BTN radio show) is an extension of the world of 130701 – if anything, even more experimental and adventurous. Each show is lovingly assembled to create a deep, immersive journey through the borderlands; a weird n woozy collage exploring a diverse range of music from head-melting modular synthesis and minimalism to frazzled electronica; field recording-based composition to hypnotic African rhythms or haunting Cambodian folk song; wonky industrial or plunderphonic experiments to South American psychedelia; and all manner of curiosities beyond and between. Pieced together to fit the graveyard slot from midnight – 2am on a Saturday night, it’s music you might drift off to, or that might suddenly jerk you awake.