Mark Pritchard

Under the Sun

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Discerning an aesthetic thread through the Mark Pritchard discography was tough in 1996. Twenty years later, forget it. Around 2013, he evidently tired of thinking up a new alias with each expectation-confounding release and, under his birth name, initiated a trio of brief releases for the Warp label. Featuring drop-ins from Ragga Twins and Spikey Tee, the fully energized EPs moved through jungle, bass, juke, ragga, and grime. They provided no indication for the approach taken on Under the Sun, itself a stylistic manifold. The album begins with "?," a sorrowful and moving ambient piece. Given a low-key release in 2009, the track has been used by Mala to open DJ sets, and it serves a similarly cleansing purpose for its new home here, leading to a rolling Krautrock chorale that features the baleful, multi-tracked voice of Bibio. It's followed by a nocturnal speeding anthem, all pounding and scuttling drums, vibrating drones, and stern direction to "switch to infrared," and a weightless, slightly uneasy track with some robotic harmonizing. That covers only the first quarter. What follows is mostly beatless, with the tracks ranging from 90 seconds to eight minutes in length. They're highlighted by the flittering "Where Do They Go, The Butterflies," the gorgeous "Sad Alron," and "Rebel Angels," where buried bass probing and a racing melody play out like a set-up for thunderous breakbeat science but disintegrate. The handful of additional tracks with vocals are spread throughout. Thom Yorke in misshapen form adds hazy dread to a lulling machine ballad. Cult folk hero Linda Perhacs delivers a spooked ballad from the edge of a dune. For Beans' nightmarish spoken narrative, Pritchard makes like a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop with intensifying patterns of organ filigrees and electronics that blip and swarm. The somewhat fragmented yet totally spellbinding sequence ends with the title track, a subwoofer workout built around a loop of -- what else? -- Julie Andrews' recitation of a 1765 nursery rhyme.

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