by Aaron Gidney
It’s been ten long years since PRR’s last release – the excellent ‘Hammer and Anvil’ and the big question is whether the wait has been worth it?
Album opener, ‘New Obsession’ begins with an ominous synth pulse before a beautifully sparse guitar soundscape enters the fray, perhaps echoing influences of Floyd and even The War on Drugs. The dual vocals of Jon Courtney and Chlöe Alper also offer a nice dynamic and versatility that many bands miss these days – except if you’re Anathema…
It’s a catchy and immediate opening gambit demonstrating a lot of musical light and shade, and an excellent showpiece of the veritable plethora of styles they embrace. Overall, the melodies shine through the schizophrenic musical juggling, ensuring that the strong hooks and songwriting come to the fore.
‘Silent Genesis’ opens with more beautifully sparse guitar on a synth/drum backdrop. The chord changes here keep things interesting and these long soundscape intros are wonderful segues into the songs -we even get some Gilmour-esque lap steel/slide guitar. The synth solo tones on this are to die for and clearly a lot of work has gone into matching the mood of the music – nothing sounds out of place.
Interestingly, there’s a lot on this album that reminds me of Mansun’s 1998 opus, ‘Six’ (all hail Paul Draper!) and at 6:53, the guitar tones are reminiscent of the lead tones Dominic Chad used on that album.
It’s good to hear that they haven’t lost any of their pop sensibilities whilst they’ve been away, it is indeed part of their USP but for those of you who enjoy the heavier side of the band, there’s plenty of QOTSA/Tool-style riffs throughout which have an extra oomph with the fantastically mixed drums – they sound huge, particularly on the latter section of ‘Maelstrom’, which for the most part is a laid back piano-led track.
‘Ghosts & Typhoons’ begins the second half of the album with an opening hypnotic trance that you can just get lost in – perhaps the Massive Attack influences infiltrate most obviously here. The second part of this track envelopes around a frenetic fuzz riff giving a sense of urgency before relaxing back into the hypnotic opening groove. It’s a cinematic, sprawling juggernaut of a track and defines what ‘widescreen’ music should be.
‘Beyond Our Bodies’ is the penultimate track and at 4:28 is the shortest and probably the most straightforward track. Stunning vocal melodies are front and centre on this one and we also get a rare treat of a fuzz/wah tremolo-picking guitar solo that does well to serve the song.
At thirteen and half minutes, title track ‘Eupnea’ closes the album in true prog epic style. Slowly building across the opening minutes, it has a similar vibe to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ with unison vocals and a four-on-the-floor bass drum to set the scene. Again, loads of light and shade on this track and it’s clearly the magnum opus that we’ve all been waiting for from them. A long wait, but does not disappoint by any stretch of the imagination.
The mix of this album is absolutely superb and each instrument and voice has a transparent clarity, offering headroom in the mix and doesn’t have that overly modern brickwalled sound that so often spoils mixes.
This is a massive slab of modern prog, respecting the past but smashing through genre-boundaries into the future. There’s so many genres displayed in this album, there isn’t any opportunity to get bored or for one genre to dominate exclusively. On the flipside, perhaps where certain sections are building, perhaps there’s not enough time for those bits to expand, and at 48 minutes (relatively short in prog terms) it certainly leaves the listener wanting more.
Was it worth the wait? Simply and resoundingly – yes. This is a tour de force and the biggest annoyance is the ten year wait. Don’t leave it so long for the next one guys. Please.
1. New Obsession
2. Silent Genesis
4. Ghosts & Typhoons
5. Beyond Our Bodies
– Jon Courtney – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
– Chloë Alper – Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
– Geoff Dugmore – Drums