XLR8R profiled Mark Pritchard back in 2013, right at the time that the Australian-based artist announced that he would retire his monikers—including Harmonic 313, Africa HiTech (with Steve Spacek), Global Communication (with Tom Middleton), Link, and Troubleman, among much more—and operate under his given name. It was a bold move, especially considering the fame and notoriety that most of those aliases received, but one that allowed him to consolidate and hone in on a sound that would encompass his many styles.
Since then, besides an untitled white label under the MP banner, all of his records have landed on the UK-based seminal imprint Warp Records: 2013’s trio of EPs Lock Off, Ghosts, and Make a Living, as well as a three-way split EP—with Bibio and Clark—titled A Badman Sound/Heath Town/Inf Inf Inf Inf. All of those releases were club-focused records, which often isn’t the best projection of an artist’s true creative whole. Most of the time, it’s the album format in which an artist can explore inward, showing the listener not only where they are at sonically, but also emotionally and creatively—and it’s been five years since Pritchard last dropped a full-length album.
Under The Sun is Pritchard’s latest LP, and it cohesively pulls together parts of the sounds and styles he has worked with over the years, whilst also pushing forward in an innovative manner. It’s an emotionally-drenched synergistic collection that strays from the dancefloor. From the first minute of achingly-beautiful opener “?,” it’s clear Pritchard is exploring deep emotional tendencies. “The Bird’s Cage,” one of the album’s four collaborative tracks, puts this idea into vocal form, with Beans from Antipop Consortium performing a spoken-word prose about finding oneself and recalling, and attempting to understand, deep-seated memories. Interspersed with exquisite, Global Communication-esque ambient phrases (“Sad Alron,” “Ems,” “Kafu,” and “Red Angels”), the album as a whole also takes on the theme of a drifting wander through Pritchard’s memories and psyche.
It’s on the collaborative tracks that Pritchard opens up and is at his most pop-inclined—although it’s a slightly skewed version of pop. “Give It Your Choir,” which features fellow Warp stalwart Bibio, is a cascading vocal-driven outing that, like its name, sounds like a soaring bass-heavy choir. Sitting on the other end of the sonic spectrum is the delicate “You Wash My Soul,” an almost entirely acoustic cut that features Linda Perhacs tugging on the heartstrings over gorgeous piano work. The venerable Thom Yorke is the album’s final contributor, providing his touch—although a very subtle one in this case—to “Beautiful People.” Although it features Yorke’s vocals throughout—albeit treated in a detuned, druggy manner—the track stays true to Under The Sun’s sound and Pritchard’s overall vision. When Yorke’s involved, there’s always a danger of him overshadowing the artist and music presented, which thankfully isn’t the case in this instance.
Under The Sun is Mark Pritchard’s most consistent piece of work in some time, one that is beautifully conceived and produced with restraint and an overall vision that, most of the time, only an artist of considerable experience can muster.
Under The Sun will drop tomorrow via Warp on heavyweight vinyl, CD, and digital formats, with the full LP available as a stream and for preorder here.