Pram

Across the Meridian

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One of the more unexpected reunions of the 2010s -- and therefore all the more exciting -- on Across the Meridian Pram pick up as though a decade hadn't passed between it and 2008's The Moving Frontier. Of course, Pram's music has always had a nebulous relationship with time; it's difficult to say their sound hasn't aged a day if it's always been timelessly strange. Nevertheless, Across the Meridian is peppered with reminders of how distinctive and influential this band is -- before Broadcast and the artists on Ghost Box, Pram defined the essence of mysterious British electronic music. The best way into Pram's universe is to dive right in, and they plunge their listeners under Across the Meridian's surface immediately with "Shimmer and Disappear." Led by an organ that descends to the depths and drags a sitar and squalling trumpet down with it, it's one of Pram's most dazzling tracks since Dark Island's "Track of the Cat." Later, they allude to other parts of their formidable discography: "Ladder to the Moon"'s smoky sophistication and the taut sci-fi thrills of "Footprints Towards Zero" hark back to Across the Meridian's mod jazz fixations, while the serene whimsy of "Wave of Translation" makes it feel like a lost track from Museum of Imaginary Animals. This isn't to say that Across the Meridian finds Pram completely unchanged. Longtime singer Rosie Cuckston, whose spookily girlish vocals complemented the band's music perfectly, chose not to return for this album. Another founding member, multi-instrumentalist Sam Owen, fills her role ably with a slightly smoother but still eerie presence on tracks as wide-ranging as "Electra"'s haunted funhouse waltz, "Mayfly"'s dreamy reflections, and "Where the Sea Stops Moving," a quaintly unsettling lullaby that reaffirms why Pram's name is so apt. More proof that time hasn't stood entirely still for the band surfaces on the electro spy pop of "Shadow in Twilight" and the fabulous hot jazz homage "The Midnight Room," both of which sound unmistakably like Pram even as they incorporate new (and old) influences. A welcome return, Across the Meridian reaffirms that music is a little weirder and a lot more wonderful with Pram back in it -- it's as if they spent the past decade globe-trotting a world of their own and returned with these brilliant vignettes as souvenirs for their listeners.

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