Mark Pritchard


Under The Sun

2016

Genre: Electronic

Style: Abstract, Ambient, Downtempo, Hip Hop

Label: Warp Records

Review taken from Phillip Sherburne’s reivew over at Pitchfork

Against this atmospheric backdrop, a few key vocal features help give the album its shape and sense of movement. The first, immediately following the ambient intro of “?,” is the Bibio-sung “Give It Your Choir,” which pairs chiming synth parts with richly colored vocal harmonies that whirl like the beads in a kaleidoscope. For much of the warm, woozy “Beautiful People,” Thom Yorke’s voice is processed nearly beyond recognition, and even when the effects are stripped away, it sounds like he’s singing through clenched teeth, his words reduced to something like pure tone. But the odd phrases that sneak through (“Angels stroke your head,” “I can’t go back”) reinforce the song’s dream-like logic, forever on the verge of pulling into focus. “The Blinds Cage” also bobs on the surface of consciousness, as Anti-Pop Consortium’s Beans narrates a stream-of-consciousness report from the border between life and death over a blippy backdrop of electronic abstractions.

In the album’s centerpiece, “You Wash My Soul,” the folksinger Linda Perhacs is accompanied by delicately plucked acoustic guitar as she sings mournfully of elemental forces and spiritual connections. At once chilly and pastoral, it’s evocative of a strain of gothic folk that stretches back through Jarboe, Current 93, and Nick Drake; it’s the polar opposite of “Infrared,” a nervous synth’n’roll number that’s reminiscent of Suicide. On paper, the two songs might not seem to have much to do with each other, but part of the beauty of the album is how it pulls such contrasting moods together into a coherent whole.

Deeply atmospheric and richly impressionistic, Under the Sun is an easy album to disappear into. Alternating short sketches with long, immersive tracks like the sumptuously droning “EMS,” and balancing emotional vocal tracks with more abstracted moodpieces, it never feels scattered; instead, each piece leads into the next, like the segments of a maze. I put it on for an hour-long perambulation through the city and found myself cozily cocooned in its folds. I was surprised, when I finally took my headphones off, to be confronted with the lively din of an outdoor café I had been idly watching for 15 minutes; it felt as though I had been zapped back to the heart of the city, transported from a faraway place that was green and warm and ancient. The only question was how music so simple, and almost naïve, had done such a thorough job of erasing the traces of the modern world around me.