Mark Pritchard’s first album in five years is a guest-heavy ambient dream
Following a fruitful career of collaborations, group projects and releases under various pseudonyms, ‘Under the Sun’ sees electronic musician, Mark Pritchard, step out from his aliases and deliver an impressively assorted and charismatic ambient album under his own name. Pritchard is a renaissance man of electronic music; equally as comfortable writing tracks to be spun for shuffling clubbers as he is for home listening Warp devotees. Pritchard’s recent releases saw him delving into dubstep and UK bass with Africa Hitech and exploring jungle and juke in his ‘Ghosts’ EP.
Conversely, Pritchard has moved away from club music to construct an album brimming with warm, relaxed thoughts. His lush and opulent production style means ‘Under the Sun’ isn’t relegated to background music pitfalls of minimalist music. However, this isn’t a conscious decision for an artist to undergo a dancefloor-to-album-format transition akin to Floating Points ‘Elaenia’ LP; it’s a return to the sounds showcased on the classic ‘76:14’ by former group Global Communication. Backed with carefully selected guests which permit the record with an enhancing sense of shape and diversity, Under the Sun radiates with its warmth: this is the perfect summer evening soundtrack.
After being treated to the cinematic entrance and note-to-note suspense of ‘?’, ‘Give It Your Choir’ has Bibio’s melodious Panda Bear-like vocal interplay offer a tuneful contrast to the introduction. Thom Yorke must have taken a break from the ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ recording sessions to lend his inimitable vocals to ‘Beautiful People’, achieving a similar feat to that of previous collaborations with Unkle and Flying Lotus; he not only augments the music, he becomes the aural focal point. Most intriguingly, ‘You Wash My Soul’ is a hauntingly sparse psychedelic folk mantra dominated by Linda Perhacs’s reverberating guitar and ethereal vocals, becoming an integral piece of the overarching warmth of ‘Under the Sun’.
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‘?’ was released six years ago as a 7” single but was chosen as the opener for the album.
Blending seamlessly from the harsher sounds of ‘Infared’, ‘Falling’ is how a music box would sound if it played 8-bit video game soundtracks. As the title suggests, it slowly descends into complete tranquillity and eventual silence. ‘Cycle of 9’ manoeuvres through orchestral motifs delivered by string instrumentation, whilst the partly-separated trilogy of ‘Where Do They Go, the Butterflies’, ‘Sad Alron’ and ‘Hi-Red’ feature percussive alien blips which echo the work of ‘Music Has The Right To Children’-era Boards Of Canada, providing the only means of comparison in the difficult to pinpoint record. Resuming the themes of extra-terrestrial emanations, ‘Ems’ is a slow-burner of ambient sci-fi soundscapes, complete with high-pitched mellotron-esque synths and radio feedback clippings.
The albums finale and title track, ‘Under The Sun’, hints elusively at Pritchard’s bygone club-orientated output, featuring a chopped vocal sample, faint handclaps and recoiling bass. By alluding to dancier territories to close the record, Pritchard leaves plenty of room for thought regarding the character of his next release. In the meantime, ‘Under the Sun’ serves as a striking foray into cinematic, stirring ambience.
‘Under the Sun’ is out now via Warp.
This Mark Pritchard review was written by Tom Woodward-Masey. Edited by Stephen Butchard.