by Aaron Gidney
Having already treated us to the lavish ‘Eupnea’ this year, PRR have decided to bestow upon us a 2 disc reissue of their now classic debut from 2006. For a band that’s only released three studio albums in 14 years, two releases in 2020 is a massive bonus for PRR fans.
Complete with artwork from the ‘Cautionary Tales For The Brave’ mini-album, an extra track (from the American release) and a second disc of bonus material – this is a must for any PRR enthusiasts, or better still, a wonderful introduction to their catalogue for any newbies.
Having the benefit of hindsight whilst listening to this reissue, one can perhaps have a better understanding of the musical vision of Jon Courtney and co. The echoes of Porcupine Tree are quite apparent in terms of the musical landscape, depth of musical space and the extent of the experimentation. The vocal interplay between Jon Courtney and Chlöe Alper is evident from the very start and skipping forward to their latest release, ‘Eupnea’, this is still one of their hallmarks and calling cards.
Paul Northfield’s production is another thing to listen out for on this reissue. Famed for his stellar work with Rush and Queensrÿche at their peak, along with the aforementioned PT, the crystal clear mix is on display once again which allows the music to breathe and give each instrument plenty of sonic space in the mix. This is never an easy feat when mixing multiple vocalists and a mix of live instruments and plenty of electronica to boot. Hats off to that man!
Most certainly, a lot of work went into the capturing the guitar tones and finding a balance between Jon Courtney’s crystal clear clean sounds and the gorgeous crunch tones he uses on the heavier sections – there’s a transparency to both sounds which is often hard to commit to tape and cut through mixes. Both sounds add so much dynamism and a pallette of musicality to songs, without being overpowering or overly bloated in the mix.
There’s a wonderful laid-back feel to this album which makes it easy to absorb, even when the songs reach their crescendo. This is best demonstrated during their near-12 minute epic, ‘The Bright Ambassadors of Morning’ which is the standout track on the album, mixing beautiful a cappella sections with some great hard rock riffing.
‘Nimos and Tambos’ is perhaps the first track on the album to offer instant gratification in terms of its immediacy and accessibility.
One thing that struck me whilst revisiting this release, was the use of voices as a unique instrument in itself. Its most definitely PRR’s not-so-hidden weapon and indeed their USP.
Extra track ‘Asleep Under Eiderdown’ follows a similar vein to the rest of the album, albeit, ironically comes in at 3 minutes and is the shortest track on the album. It offers a sparse, vocal-centric finish to the album with a gentle mallet accompaniment, nicely bookending from where album-opener, ‘Aeropause’ began.
Bonus disc opener, ‘In Aurelia’ offers some more fuzz riffage which has a little bit of Muse vibe (of which this writer is NOT a fan of just for clarification!). ‘Borgens Vor’ begins as another minimalist exploration, picking up the pace half way through which offers a nice sense of urgency compared to the rest of the album’s more laid-back tracks. ‘The Exact Color’ brings the piano to the fore, before breaking out into another layered vocal section. ‘The Twyncyn’ is a hypnotic, dirge-like plodder with some string arrangements for backup before transitioning into ‘Trembling Willows’ which ups the metal riffage and builds up to a wonderful chorus full of melody and perhaps the ‘thickest’ mixed part of the album and bonus disc. Finally, ‘Golden Clothes’ draws the proceedings to an end, clocking in at seven and a half minutes, and contains many of the similar traits demonstrated throughout the album, bar a slightly out of place four on floor dance drum loop towards the finale.
In hindsight, at 1 hr 27 minutes , this could have originally been a double album, particularly as the bonus tracks are clearly cut from the same cloth and most are equally good as the main albums tracks, however, perhaps that may have been too ambitious for a debut.
All in all, a fantastic retrospective of their debut which some nice nuggets to boot. Well worth investing in, even if you are new to this band and hopefully will appeal to old and new fans alike.
1. Aeropause 2. Goshen’s Remains
3. Apprentice of the Universe
4. The Bright Ambassadors of Morning
5. Nimos and Tambos
6. Voices in Winter/In The Realms of Devine
7. Bullitts Dominae
8. The Intentional Craft
9. He Tried To Show Them Magic/Ambassadors Return 10. Asleep Under Eiderdown
- In Aurelia
- Borgens Vor
- The Exact Color
- The Twyncyn/Trembling Willows
- Golden Clothes
Jon Courtney – Vocals, Guitar, Programming Bass and Keyboards. Chlöe Alper – Vocals and Bass Andrew Courtney – Drums and Percussion James Dobson – Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Programming and Violin Gregory Jong – Vocals, Guitar and Keyboards Jamie Willcox – Vocals and Guitar