Strange, cinematic Birmingham post rock outfit release their 8th (we think) album, and...
Peter Marsh 2003-01-24
Pram are probably one ot the UK's most individual bands, and maybe even one of its best kept secrets. Over ten years and seven or so albums they've spun strange tales of mermaids, chrysalids, childhood, love and owls, framed by a strangely archaic music stuffed with theremins, trumpets, tinkly keyboards, shimmering, fragile guitars and warm, dubby basslines anchored to loping, gently chaotic rhythms.
Rosie Cuckston's lyrics are dreamlike observations, mixing imaginary landscapes ("Penny Arcade") with fragmentary recollections of childhood or thoughts on the inadequacy of language, all delivered in a sweetly dispassionate, very English tone. Dark Island is another small step; things change slowly in Pramworld. Maybe the arrangements are slightly more detailed; maybe it's a more intimate record. It's hard to tell yet; Pram reveal their secrets slowly too.
The 10 tracks here are like Joseph Cornell's boxes; crammed with seemingly disparate elements that together create something new, resonant but elusive. Rosie's tales mix sharp observation with sudden dark, personal confessions; 'We both wear paper hats and there's a jelly shaped like a rabbit on a plate' ("Paper Hats"); or from the hushed, melancholic "Goodbye"; 'In my dreams the graverobbers fill their pockets up with goods'.
The band's gift for warm, delicate strangeness recalls the aquatic ballads of Robert Wyatt, and like Wyatt or late 70s post punk experimentalists such as The Raincoats, structures seem fluid, quiet surprise never far away. It's not a contrived strangeness either; unlike the sometimes calculated quirkiness employed by others, Pram's music suspends disbelief as they draw you into their intricate little world. It's a place worth visiting.