PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” ***

Recorded 2004

 

Prp Group are (were?) a British trio of Ashley Clarke (drums), Richard Riz Errington (guitar, electronics) and Michael Clough (bass).  In the 1980s, all three were active in another formation known as Rancid Poultry. 

 

Prp Group’s sound is based on a smooth, interactive flow between the three, fully enfranchised musicians.  Often yielding to the lure of rock jamming, the band has been on a continuous quest for definitive sound.  Each recording seemed to tap into different deposits of experimental rock – from tropospheric space jams, through post-punk’s self-regulating ostinatos, to smelting guitar trio feedbacks. 

 

It is not clear if the band is still in existence.  Their output from earlier in this decade documents well various phases of their stylistic research.  At the same time, their intriguing CDRs carried a promise that they would eventually go beyond the rehearsal stage.

 

 

Ptarmigans

The track begins with a subterrestrial bass vibrato and rim shots from Ashley Clarke.  The succulent bass morphs into a regular ostinato, underlying the contrast with the dissicated drumstick work – in an (unintended?) resemblance to good old A Certain Ratio.  After about 20 turns, cymbals check in, cushioning a cleanly combed electric guitar which reverberates in the distance.  The guitar’s tickle and giggle iterations become brassy, gaining an almost timbales-like resonance, but the high-pitched notes’ call for the timbales answer will remain aperiodic.  A drum’n’bass dialogue walks in spryly, despite Jah Wobble-like bass tuning.  One just can’t dispel the memory of PIL’s “Fodderstompf” from 30 years ago (ouch !).  This is definitely not a space rock jam as we have known it from many talented US bands over the last decade.  Rather, Prp Group stays quite restrained and almost reluctant to engage in disorienting crotchets.  Although the extended, slow moving structure allows the guitar to improvise freely, Richard Errington appears surprisingly constrained, incorporating fairly minimal variance.  Finally, the drumming becomes more forceful and some additional treatments rear their buzzing heads.  This is when additional wooden percussive effects appear – sounding like angklung or a small bamboo xylophone. 

 

Shatner’s Bassoon

This piece starts with cyclonic electro-fluctuations and an extra-metric drumming hiccup – regular enough to sound like a sample.  The hi-hat is quite lonely in its chore, groping for understanding bass figure.  Some droning cylinders pivot incessantly – now you hear’em, now you don’t.  The repetition is slowly earning a loop-sounding, systemic character and the accent shifts offbeat.  Soon afterwards, it is reduced to pure, sputtering electronics.

 

Cow

Michael Clough’s relaxing bass exposes an obsessively simplistic, 9-note songlike phrase.  Languid drums and dry guitar clang do little to distract us from this self-defeating idea.  Echoing drum rims, acoustic guitar, purring electronic surge, crash cymbals and ratchet will all apportion some non-linearity, but the lack of convincing development is problematic.  Dub treatment selectively tackles drum reverb, but Adrian Sherwood this is not.  Some of the echoplex treatments are even a little childish, and those that do work are overfamiliar – a metallic pipe effect, alternatively extended reverb and damping of cymbals.  This amounts to little more than explorations into sustain and muting.  The listener’s attention is finally rewarded by “chopsticking” on a hard surface – light and multiplied many times over until smeared out into a buzz – a moment worthy of François Bayle or Bernard Parmegiani.  Unfortunately, a marching version of the elementary theme ruins the tail end.  A rocket lift-off noise will lead us directly into the next piece.

 

Dub Version of the Previous Track

This misleading title picks up where the “Cow” left off, but throws “dub” out of the window.  Yes, we do have reverb and even much of that, but it turns the aural environment into flywheels of electromagnetic buzz, fraught with sizzle, frizzle and feedback.  The pitch control is fairly slow; the amplitude control a little more varied.  The oscillations fingerpoint some blackbird tweets, panning between the right and left channel.  There is some intentional feedback from a speaker that sounds as if it had caught the waveforms from a fluorescent bulb nearby.  With the top range teeming with swarms of insects and the lower end hammering resoundingly, the days of contemporary studio luminaries (Milton Babbitt or Richard Maxfield) seem to be back.  Just the (very acoustic) drumming occasionally adds a non-academic twist to the concoction.  Again, this track will seamlessly sublimate into the next one. 

 

The Elephant Charmer

The carry-over drumming intensifies, increasingly emphatic and bruising.  Ashley Clarke pounds with abandon to the limit of our Faustian imagination.  It could almost segue into “it’s a rainy day, sunshine baby” as in the recent live recordings of the Diermeier-Peron version of the legendary kraut-band.  Prp Group will instead keep socking, with a riffless fuzz guitar sustaining its chords.

 

***

 

The discography of prpGroup is limited to relatively short CDRs.  Positions 1 and 2 were later collected on one CDR entitled “Penfruit/Babylard”.  Likewise, 3 and 4 can be found on one CDR.  Unfortunately, I have not heard position 5. 

 

1. PRP GROUP: “Penfruit” (2001)

2. PRP GROUP: “Babylard” (2002)

3. PRP GROUP: “Snib” (2003)

4. PRP GROUP: “Sun Pie in a Custard Pie” (2003)

5. PRP GROUP: “Soil Pipe” (?)

6. PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” (2004)

 

Aside from Rancid Poultry, Clough had also played in duo with Errington (as Clothearz) and with Clarke (as AMA).  At the moment, Sonic Asymmetry is not aware of any other recordings by PrpGroup.  Are you?

 

Published in: on July 8, 2008 at 6:06 am  Comments (1)  
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ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” ****

 

Recorded 2006, 2007

 

 

The juicy name and squelchy logo hide the considerable talent of keyboard player Dirk Jan Müller who since the early 1990s has been recording increasingly inspired jams in volatile constellations.  But mid-1990s he was joined by guitarist Dirk Bittner, but it took several more years before the core of the currently active band took shape.

 

Electric Orange seeks inspiration in the long tradition of rock jamming, but often straying from the well-trodden format into unexpectedly hooked arrangements and exploratory parentheses.  For all those who miss the extraordinary inventiveness of German music over a generation ago, Electric Orange brings a whiff of fresh air, albeit with an aura of healthy déjà vu.

 

Unfortunately, the musicians insist on filling the available CD space with some marginal material, which somewhat mars the coherence of the sets.

 

 

 

Einwahn

We are transported into the unconscious world of childhood memories filled with amusement park hubbub – merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, cheesy itinerant businesses.  Regrettably, this evocative anaphora leads nowhere…  Sudden assault comes from a tribal drumming circle that flails its way indefatigably with the hoof-like precision.  Jagging guitar sound and a Hammond-soundalike localize the ghosts of their stylistic patrons.  An extraordinary power emanates from the band – unwavering, tight and compressed.  When the organ begins to chuckle on its own bobsled ride, the Second Hand’s supreme “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” comes to mind.  The potent chug-along is vibrant and jubilant, quite unlike the title (“delusion”). 

 

Rote Flocken

Electronic hairpin serpentines open with pre-recorded, tinny voices in heraus-pronounced German.  The organ cradles us in a comfy rut allowing the guitars to explore various registers.  Snippets of distorted recitation probe the über-conventional organ & guitar riffing.  Impotent trumpet, piano strings, unidentifiable samples and percussive glimmer penetrate the herringbone structure of this track. 

 

Span 5

In a natural segue, a more resonant guitar grit punctures the trippy organ – bass – drumset perfection.  The crystal clear mix allows our senses to tune into the various guitar pitches simultaneously.  On top of the range, distant wah-wah scrambles for attention in a patchy cooperation with eerily evocative organ (Dirk Jan Müller must have grown up on young Richard Wright’s fastidious harmonizing).  Silvo Franolic’s cymbal splashes pile up layers of dense cloud formations.  The rest of the band needs to soar above these vigorous explosions.  And soar it does.

 

Morbus

The title track sounds like a tribute to Brainticket’s organ-led vortex, spinning tenaciously with the ease of “Cottonwoodhill” and taking us for a whirring steamroller ride.  Deposits of annunciatory voices are laid behind these gyrations, while a strained, pentatonic recorder bores holes in this cylindrical domain.  A full-scale guitar cum organ convulsion bursts in flames, only to reveal the unstoppable magmatic flow.  Screechy recorders will have the last word.

 

Errorman

Initially, the organ, guitar, bass and drums quartet adopts a more leisurely, trotting pace.  In a monumental entrée, the rhythm section veers off towards the ecstasy of vertigo-inducing passages.  Tom Rückwald appears on bowed acoustic bass, doubled on choir-emulating mellotron.  Silvio Franolic treats his plump drums and tinkling cymbals with measured, downy mallets.  Bittner’s voice is full of painful agony, but despite its menacing quality, the uncanny, tubular vocal carries also crosstextual messages from a long-lost pedigree (e.g. Silberbart, 2066 & Then).  Mellotron’s fake celestial strings close this pleasant déjà entendu

 

Flohfunknest

Acoustic guitar succumbs to a sound forest of hand drums, cortales, and thrown coins.  A funky interaction arises from the thumping electric bass and teasing soft rolls harvested with brushes by the drummer.  The band unleashes sonic debris – stereotyped ‘Bahnhof’ announcements, flippant effects from someone’s oral cavity, persuasive girls, manual tooth brushing, an old-time alarm clock, an electric shaver.  But underneath, this is but a circular funky rondo – a fairly conventional musical joke.

 

Traumama

We are now almost on a midsummer, Latin party terrain.  When the initial frenzy clears, a female voice adapts to the reigning climactic condition.  The hyperactive, but harmless, blithe beach guitars are reminiscent of latter-day Can’s dubious explorations into oases of rhythmic optimism.  Several isolated notes on a Spanish guitar shut this chapter.

 

Kratschock

After this 2-track parenthesis, the mood turns again, courtesy a threatening harmonium.  This catatonic instrument, rescued from oblivion 30 years ago by Univers Zero, is accompanied here by an intimate guitar, organ, drums and flute.  Electric Orange brings yet other memories of their nation’s formative Blütezeit.  The way the dispassionate recitation has been mixed in brings to mind the declamations by Walter Wegmüller or Sergius Golowin.  Acoustic bass and breathy flute frame the structure, supported by molten organ, much like early Gila – both in gesture and in form. 

 

Wald

First, vitreous sound of unknown provenience.  Next, a very international sound of a noisy schoolyard.  Then, sustained bass notes and mysterious harmonium gear the band to inchoate harmonic trajectory.  All these attempts are instantly spoiled by monorhythmic swelling and an angular organ chord.  This is a disappointing moment – the band creates anticipation that it does not live up to for several long minutes.  The prominence of the organ layer does not allow the muscular rhythm section to generate a punch worthy of Neu’s “Negativland” or Glenn Branca’s “Ascension”.  And even then, the idea would have been epigonic.  When Bittner’s singing breaks in, one is seriously puzzled – not sure if this is a parody, a dance number or a piece of failed space rock trapped in the troposphere and unable to overcome earthly gravity.  The harmonium and synthesizer fail to save the day, as the formulaic, isometric pounding is never too far behind. 

 

Reaching

This is a ballad for acoustic guitar and bass, delivered with a slightly distorted, rippling voice.  The apparent ingredients are there (mellotron, and flute), but the tune correlates poorly with the stronger moments on this CD. 

 

Schöhl

Crippling electronic intro yields to an official pre-announcement worthy of West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.  Fast bongo runs and a pulsating bass leave much space – enough for the organ and guitar to accentuate the beat.  Each time the guitar repeats its two-chord routine, the bongo woodpecker wakes up.  Additional distortion is provided by simmering synthesizer effects. 

 

Sarau

Waves of low amplitude electronics wash on a sailboat fitted with organ and bass.  A toned down organ coupled with Josef Ahns’ ascending flute legato has many precedents: Ove Volquartz of Annexus Quam (“Beziehungen”), Herb Geller of Brave New World (“Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley”) or Rainer Büchel of Ibliss (“Supernova”).  This engaging opening gives way to sub-Saharan hand drum and echoplexed guitar, with the organ ensuring further continuity.  In the final bars, a highly pitched guitar improvises until the final cut. 

 

 

***

 

 

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Electric Orange” (1992-1993)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Orange Commutation” (1993-1994)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Cyberdelic” (1995)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Abgelaufen” (2001)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Platte” (2003)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Fleischwerk” (2004-2005)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” (2006-2007)

 

I have not heard the first three positions.  The general impression is that the band’s inventiveness has progressed on the most recent CDs.  “Morbus” was mastered by Eroc, krautrock’s ultimate studio joker.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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