November 1996 – EP reviews – Pram’s ‘Music for Your Movies’ (“profundity stretched over that soap-bubble surface”)

18 Nov

Pram: 'Music for Your Movies'

Pram: ‘Music for Your Movies’

A tangible relief. You know when you treasure a band whose very awkwardness is their spur to genius? And you dread the day when they inevitably develop, move on, make that breakthrough? How you torture yourself with wondering exactly how they’re going to sell out, which part of their off-the-wall wonder is going to be sloughed off like an old coat or an outgrown friend? And how wonderful (and how rare) it is, when they make that leap while still swinging all of that weird and precious baggage.

Over four albums and assorted spring showers of invention, Pram have made music which sounds like daydreams captured in rented rooms and played on dolls-house instruments. Tinkly, tiny and exquisite: beautifully fragile songs, with profundity stretched over that soap-bubble surface. Music recorded in the kitchen sink during those sparkling times an hour or so before noon or dusk sets in; dusted by trumpets and cobwebs, and licked by ebbtides of slide guitar. They’ve got only the flakiest of reference points – tranquillised ’50s lounge-music echoes, say; or the ferment of polycultural Birmingham nightclubs; or Can’s immersive and unlikely groove; or the deliquescing pop of Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd on See Emily Play (it’s that sustained, wobbly organ, and that obstinate un-rock twitchiness to Daren Garratt’s drumming: free-jazz leanings, or dodgy-but-compelling technique?). They’ve none of the portentousness of yer Sylvians or Cures, and none of the slackitudes of post-rockers: nor the inhumanity of those ambient characters who sound as if they’re wearing their eyeballs back-to-front. Pram’s music has always been winningly human: frail, sensual, intimate, and very lovely.


 
The last time we heard from them (on ‘Sargasso Sea’), Pram had drifted aground and drew wonder even from that, rattling like a wind-harp as they moulded music out of disappointment, sleep and stranded hearts. On ‘Music for Your Movies’, they’ve kept their home-made clatter and every scrap of their inventiveness, but have tightened up their pop. Everything falls into place now instead of merely stumbling together, weaving in delicate threads of dub, drum’n’bass, cinema organ. Rosie’s voice, though still weary conversationalist rather than acrobatic diva, has a new bounce and a lilt to it. And her lyrics (while still existing in the reverie that the white page lends so many poems, crucially detaching them from registering as real life) have a new zest.


 
There’s something celebratory about these songs. The Sargasso that trapped is now a playground for her to transform with enchantment in Sea Jungle’s free-floating love song, while Silver Nitrate celebrates the transforming imaginative power of film as a feminist liberation: “The woman who discovered light / was dazzled by her ingenuity /…With silver nitrate she could make time wait / she could gather all of her hopes and her dreams and make them her destiny / …and spun her thoughts like spiders webs / and with these delicate chains was set free.” On Eggshells it might be Rosie who suffers, locked out from her lover by his own absorption in his past wounds, but she’s the stronger, the more loyal, despite her exposure. Only Carnival of Souls sees Rosie failing to escape the net of her own entrapments, with figures from her past parading through her sleeping head (“feels like I’m living / in a zombie movie”).


 
Pram have already made stagnation seductive. Now, wheels oiled, they’re rolling forward to explore the waking world. Lucky world.

Pram: ‘Music for Your Movies’
Duophonic Super 45s, DS45-CD15 (5024545032727)
CD/vinyl EP
Released:
18th November 1996
Get it from: (2020 update) Best obtained second-hand.
Pram online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Google Play Spotify Tidal Amazon Music
 

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