This album is an example of a sound that almost slipped through my sticky little fingers.
Pram has been a band since 1988. Ya, you read that right. These motherfuckers have been working together for the past 30 years. This is their 2018 album. They’ve made a name for themselves by not giving a poor man’s fuck. Want music made with a theremin, a zither, a toy piano, a glass hammer, a glockenspiel, and a Hawaiian bubble machine? Think Pram. They made a few waves in decades past. Pram never hit tsunami level popularity, though they did crest a white cap here and there. Due to their bizarre style, psychedelic darkness, and jazz-fusion mixed with strange ambient vocals singing about depression and a fucked up childhood, they never really made it onto the main stage. The worst thing you can do while listening to pram is to expect what’s going to come next.
Now, I could try and judge this album against Pram’s other albums. I could compare the free-flowing elements on this album to their 16-minute track of their album from ’93. I could say that their dark jazz elements mixed with electronic pulsing remind me of a track of their album Dark Island. Fuck, I could even try to compare their love affair with early jazz recordings with a couple tunes from their album Across the Meridian. But, fuck it. I listened to this album after removing everything Pram from my brain. I didn’t want that shit to interfere with what I was listening to.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard an album this strange, yet somehow, so easy to listen to. The first track feels like a musically talented nomadic tribe playing their way through a hallucination. The next track has the beat and folk darkness of a Tom Waits track with some weirdo synth playing up front. There is so much atmosphere and space on this track you can almost ignore the laser sounds that come in every so often. The ambient siren’s vocal floating on top is mixed so well into the instrumentation that it’s part of the music. The track “Ladder to the Moon” comes off like a jazz from an incredibly forward thinking trio that doesn’t give a fuck about the genre.
If someone had an expectation with what Pram should make, I could understand them disliking this album. But, like I said before, the worst thing you can do with Pram is to expect what’s going to come next. As an album standing on its own two feet: it’s fun, it’s inventive, it doesn’t give a fuck, it’s jazz/pop/big-band/psychedelia in a way you’ve never heard before. Listening to this album can show you how much more can be done with music, how little we’ve done so far, and what to expect next. Don’t let this album slip through your fingers.