Friday, August 24, 2007

CD Review No 5- Prinzhorn Dance School

A minimalist bass lines slowly fades up into hearing, coming and going like a radar. Thirty five seconds later, after what seems like a wait of an eternity, the thwack of an unadorned drum beat enters, followed a few seconds later by the sparse twang of a simple electric guitar riff. These are then augmented by a male vocal style of characterless and studied ordinariness,as he sings ' your down in a hole, your down in the ground, its 7am and your scratching around, the moneys all gone, and your poor like the poor, your lover just called, she don't love you no more, your in the black bunker' this is further enhanced by unsophisticated screams and whelps from a back up singer who has all the vocal skill and refinement of a cheerleader standing at the side of a football pitch. You have unwittingly stumbled into the musical sound scape of Prinzhorn Dance School's first album.

There are only two people present Prinz ( Male ) and Horn ( Female ) they comprise PDS. Sometimes their sound is artfully contrived and odd in a very knowing way. Like performance art punk rock, you might like it, but you certainly can't dance to it. It does, however, possess its own peculiar delights like chocolates that have been deliberately misshapen in production. They've set the musical boundaries they're exploring, no wanton adornments like excessive use of echo, treatments or electronic embellishments of any kind, instruments are recorded so ' snare drums sound like snare drums' as they express it. There is often large volumes of space, moments of silence, gaps interspersed amongst the music like a dare - how long can you wait before you just have to make a sound. This is quite a constriction and discipline to place on yourself, even though at times the plodding drum and guitar sound does become a bit well trodden and over familiar. If this band is going to thrive they''ll need to develop more musical inventiveness within their minimalism or break out of it, otherwise they're will be no difficult third album.

Quirky and gauche could be one way to describe them. They revive a particular musical aesthetic which emerged from early eighties 'indie rock', defiantly individual, with an uncompromising distinctive vision. Comparisons aren't always useful, but at times in spirit they did remind me of The Fall, with a dash of Young Marble Giants, early Slits and Jonathan Richman ( on their song - Hansworthy Sports and Leisure Centre ) thrown into the pot. Were he still alive PDS would have been played enthusiastically by John Peel, I am sure. Their form of eccentricity frequently is too self consciously abstracted and off beat to be widely commercial, but it is curiously addictive nonetheless. You could become extremely fond of them, but beware - never fall in love with them, there is something on the edge of becoming unhinged or perverted here. They have a pretty queer imagination manifesting in their lyrics, which doesn't always stay the right side of rational coherence. Prinz intones 'I do not like change, I always walk this way,I do not like change – l like memorised fact,I like memorised fact,bible premiership stat, I like memorised fact – I got sticker book pic, you, you talk too quick, I got sticker book pic – I do not like touch, you, you talk too much, I do not like touch.' Then they will surprise you with some wry understated humour like 'do you know your butcher, DO YOU know your baker, do you know your paper comes from the big store, next to the big store.'

Yes, Prinzhorn Dance School are an acquired taste, but then a lot of very good things are.

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