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Review: Prinzhorn Dance School – Clay Class

Derided by some and lauded by others after the release of their divisive debut album, Prinzhorn Dance School – duo Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn – return with their sophomore LP. It’s a warmer and, dare I say it, accessible sound than their debut – but don’t think it’s going to be easy listening.

The DFA post-punk act’s debut was a sparse and stark collection of songs where the space in between was just as important as the noise. On this follow up, more than four years on, they were determined “to bring in some color and some tenderness” to their sound and promised material with an uplifting, redemptive tone.

They were half right. Still veering on the paranoid side their brooding and ominous side often prevails. ‘Happy In Bits’ mixes a tension-strung sound with the line ‘Just happy to be’. ‘Seed, Crop, Harvest’ continues the mix of dark sounds and redemptive lyrics as Prinz sings ‘it’s a new dawn’. The call and response of ‘Your Fire Has Gone Out’ sees a dark narrative which talks of ‘…Blister packs, empty bubbles…’.

So far, so Gang Of Four. These tracks continue the formula of the first album – a simple mix of wiry guitar, bass and drums. It’s The Fall, it’s the much missed (if only by me) Ikara Colt, it’s Wire. This is their foreboding, paranoid sound.
Yet the other half of the album is something quite different. Fragile, vulnerable and touching, these tracks show a different side to the band. On the tender ‘I Want You’, guitars hum and chime warmly, it’s touching and something new. ‘Turn Up The Light’ sees jagged guitars give way to a lilting chorus and a plucked guitar solo that swells and swells.

‘Crisis Team’ is an aching almost lush tune pierced by raw lyrics about being unable to breathe, crisis and accidents. The domesticity chronicled in ‘Sing Orderly,’ (lyric: “struggling up the patio and waiting for the paper and hoping it doesn’t pour”) is a very British view of suburban life.

Closing the record, the instrumental ‘Right Night Kay West’ and ‘Shake The Jar’ are rather underwhelming after what has gone before, though the vulnerability shown in their sound hints at the feelings that pervade the whole album. This is a record that fulfils what the band set out to do and more: the first album but coloured in, human and lived in and balancing the dark with the light.

– Daniel Wright

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