I’ve been trying to write a few words on Mark Pritchard‘s Under the Sun for the site for a while now. Lots of cliches come and go; lots of reference points drift in and out of the frame. None of them do the record justice. So, let’s take it back to the basics.
Mark Pritchard was (is?) one half of Global Communications. Their 1994 album 76:14 remains the high benchmark of British ‘ambient’ music (I’m not talking Eno territory here – I’m talking that post-acid house movement where pills got smacky and people had to have a good, long sit-down in the back rooms of clubs). If you don’t think you know 76:14, you’ll know the clock track off the album. It’s like Penguin Cafe’s Perpetuum Mobile – one of those pieces of music that seems to exist in the ether now). For the past two decades, he’s made a bunch of great dancefloor records under myriad names that flit across genres effortlessly. That said, I’ve lost track of them because my children prefer the sound of Cbeebies to Warp-bleepies.
Since the first spin, Under the Sun has different. It’s a complete, consistent and compelling piece of work – a mesmerising and pure album. Sure, it’s hard to categorize (hence the cliches, the reference points) but that’s half the fun. There’s flickers of Suicide, there’s modernist freak folk that could well be cut-ups of lost Paul Giovanni cuts for the Wicker Man soundtrack (listen to Beautiful People – the track with Thom Yorke on it – and detect a very distinct line drawn between it and the new Radiohead video). There’s echoes of the mighty Broadcast and the provincial weirdness of Ghost Box records. And there’s plenty of the kind of elegiac electronic haze you wish Boards of Canada would still make. Basically the kind of gorgeous, dream-state music that 76:14 did so brilliantly twenty two years ago.
As far as I can hear, there’s currently no better soundtrack to these glorious, still days at the turn of the British seasons.