Radiohead aren’t the only ones to have ploughed the horror prairies of The Wicker Man for inspiration recently. Hot on the heels of their ‘Burn The Witch’ video – and coincidentally featuring a guest spot from Thom Yorke – Mark Pritchard’s Under The Sun arrives today. And it’s as close to an electronic drone reinterpretation of the 1970s chiller as you’ll probably ever get.
The ever-masterful Warp mainstay has peeled away his myriad guises – from Reload and Troubleman to Africa HiTech and his footwork adventures – to reveal a more delicate, downtempo persona, and at its beating heart is an English pagan sensibility.
Under The Sun, released today on Warp, is the UK producer’s first solo record in five years and features vocals from Thom Yorke, Bibio, psych-folk legend Linda Perhacs and Julie Andrews, via a sample of the Mother Goose nursery rhyme. It’s an album that seems to encapsulate and digitise the mythology of an English country summertime, where poems, flutes and nursery rhymes collide with lightly bubbling electronics, abstract techno and cosmic drones.
Opening track ‘?’ is a primer for Pritchard’s new incarnation; of all his projects, this is the closest to the spacey ambience of Global Communication (his collaboration with Tom Middleton) but at the same time is unlike anything he’s turned his hand to before. Gone are the narcotic, head-spinning sounds, in their place a lightness of touch.
Pritchard quickens the pace and darkens the mood with ‘Infrared’, swapping the tranquil afternoon scene for a revved-up night-time cruise: “When night-time falls /pedal to the floor”, but it’s not long before he brings it back down on ‘Falling’ a jaunty synth-led dreamscape, sitting somewhere between Aphex Twin and one of England’s oldest known polyphonic compositions, ‘Sumer is Icumen’.
There’s a striking variety of voices peppering the album. Thom Yorke is in his treated-vocal element as he drunk-croons through the ghostly ‘Beautiful People’, while ‘The Bird’s Cage’ sees Beans from Antipop Consortium perform a spoken-word prose about self-discovery.
Standout ‘You Wash My Soul’ is an acoustic outlier, which lyrically captures the album’s Wicker Man-esque pagan spirit best: “Where moon and sun embrace, I feel you.” The album closes with ‘Under The Sun’, chopping up Julie Andrews singing the 18th century nursery rhyme Mother Goose and spewing out a glitchy electronic ode in its place.
I went to watch a hurdy-gurdy player in a church in Oxford last summer, and as quaint as that sounds, that experience seems to resonate with this album. ‘Cycles of 9’, ‘Falling’ and the piano lullaby ‘Sad Aldron’, along with the flute, clarinet and recorder on ‘Where Do They Go, The Butterflies’ imbue the album with a tonality that aligns itself with medieval folk on a record that lulls you into a soporific, yet spooky, half-reality.
You can hear Under The Sun its full glory above.
Read next: The Essential… Mark Pritchard