PRAM: The Moving Frontier (Domino Recording Co.)


Posted on Oct 11th 2007 12:23 am

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Pram: The Moving Frontier

The Moving Frontier
Domino Recording Co 2007
14 Tracks. 44mins25secs

Birmingham’s Pram have always been on the periphery of pop music, shielded from the banality of everyday life by a heroic inventory of instruments and sonic references more adapted to time and space travel than to mass transportation. In a parallel dimension, Pram would be setting the pace and the NME, who famously gave their Sargasso Sea album a glorious zero out of ten, to the delight of the band, in 1995, would be a relevant music reference.

For The Moving Frontier, the band’s eleventh album in fifteen years, their first since 2003’s Dark Island, Rosie Cuckston and her troop have developed a much more complex musical lexicon, turning the spectral pop of previous releases into darker, more angular songs and murky instrumentals. It is on the vocal tracks, bare little tales over which Cuckston reigns supremely, that the change is most obvious. Salt & Sand snakes languorously around a drum machine and bass motif, with tidal waves of white noise occasionally sending pulses through the sonic landscape. On The City Surveyor, the voice, glacial blade planted straight in a desert of crushed noises and Theremin becomes the primary focal point, the acerbic story it conveys nonchalantly dripping of its sharp edge like blood on white carpet, while Moonminer is an ominous piece of toxic lava which sprawls uncontrollably until it sets for good after just two and a half minutes.

Salva and Hums Around Us are slightly more welcoming sights. On the former, Cuckston appears to drift away from the band as she sings repeatedly ‘Are you afraid of sugar / Scared of salt’, her voice becoming lost amongst some of the richest soundscapes heard on this record, while on the latter, Pram drafts impressions of krautrock for what is ultimately one of the lightest pieces on offer here.

The instrumentals scattered over the whole album are equally as varied, ranging from the after dark fairground thrill of opening track The Empty Quarter, the cinematic envelop of Blind Tiger and velveteen elegance of Mariana Deep and even more so Beluga, with its sombre murder mystery overtones and light-catching reverence, to the fragile assemblages of Iske and Metaluna and the abstract clutter of Sundew and closing piece The Silk Road. Pram arrange this display with aching precision, cautious of maintaining a fine balance of tone throughout. The results is Pram’s most confident and mature record to date, yet it is also their most eclectic and daring. A sure sign that they are now, more than ever, at the top of their game.


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