Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Album Review: Prussia

Blessed Be, Yours Truly, In Spirit And Soul
Common Cloud Records

(download NOW - for FREE at: http://www.blessedbeyourstrulyinspiritandsoul.com/

(words: jeff milo)

On Prussia's newest, Blessed Be, Yours Truly, In Sprit and Soul, the Detroit quintet get dark.

The opener unearths ominous bass-fiddle growls and possessing harmonics humming like ghostly wails over the misty moonlit horizon – this music inhabits the foggy edges of the haunted-house's front lawn, right at the entrance of some sinister swamp sloping down the hill of some fog-swathed precipice.

And that's just the first 45 seconds…wait till that gloomy violin comes in…

They'd already demonstrated that their heads were all spinning off into different skies when their first full-length, Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly spilled out gritty reggae balladry mixed with waltzy doo-wop inverted through the pounded marches of tribal futurism pop – but now they, rather quickly, throw out a gutsy follow-up that, by confident whimsy style alone, sounds more like their 4th or 5th release. They've gone from the relatively warm sunny pop of Dear Emily straight to essentially tracking the score to their own imaginary horror movie – That jarring but highly attracting transition – (what took Tom Waits 12 years of organic murk-emergence from the chalky piano troubadour playing out last call to the creepy-coaxing shaman of goth-blues )– has taken the four shrugging, unassuming lads of Prussia a matter of months.

Inspired by Italian horror movies and (as always for these boys,) the grooves of Motown) this is a merging of soul and spook: music made for eerie traipses down dark dusty-floored hallways led by candle-light, where the hook of the sweet solemn violin saw serves as the nightgown-laden heroin's fidgety glance behind her to make sure no knife-wielding miscreant's hot on her trail. And yes, it is just about this dark – there's songs about incest and cannibalism and insanity and God and witchcraft – but, call me crazy – it's never alienating. In fact, almost possessing… It may be a dreadful mansion but you still can't make yourself leave. Some of it, assuredly, is warm and has a hinted flavor of pop-serenity...

Opener, "Though Super-Violent, We Chewed With Our Mouths Shut" is a chilling dirge that lumbers along with sparse but intricate accompaniment; we're led by an almost meek, but dreamy guitar line that ferries you through the darkness and into the rewarding whirling hooks where the bass lurches and slides as airy echoed vocals heave out as though it's the last (melody-conscious) breaths of your singer – (still maintaining that classic raspy Drifter's doo-wop style). Doubling-up singer Ryan Spencer's vocals on "So I Born a Murderer, Don't Pray For Me My Love" (sung-spoken cannibalistic threats with a croaking monotone backing vocal) over minimalist-but-dance-able percussion, beckons a capricious herky-jerky violin plucking and beautifully wafting 2nd violin swings and drifts, eventually mutating into scraping cat-cries over the chorus.

We're out waltzing in the sunflowers for "Placemats Set for Three: My Twin sister, the lord, and Me" with xylophones and bouncing chut-chut guitar strums, lovely backing vocals from Candace O'Leary, junkyard percussion spills and an arrestingly bouncy bass – Of course, sliding back to the dark, it's a song about an unsettled religious-born paranoia in the hearts of kissing cousins, with the striking chorus of "You must be insane / Listening to you, christ, you must be insane / fucking insane."

"To a Southern Drawl, I Sing a Lullaby" opens with a whirlpool-winding organ under Spencer's softly endearing "la-da-da-daaah" wanderings and bassist Brenton Bober's expressive basslines that lead you on in an intimate slow-dance in the corner. Track 5 (the longest title yet, "We Would Need a Place to Hide, Wouldn't We? Men Who'd Seen Miracles Did") may be the most distinct – certainly the most striking in terms of its elaborate percussion with the unique bob and bounce of tablas intertwined with a traditional march on for the rare appearance of a drum kit (with Drew Spencer).

Much of this auxiliary ambience that fills the album's nooks and crannies is dreamt up by drummer (and aspiring recording engineer) Andrew Remdonek, complimenting Spencer and Bober's give and take of spook-grove song formation.

Single "The Witch was a Preemie. God Bless her evil soul" grows with shuffling bass and percussion taps as Spencer's most inventive and sinewy vocal melody yet starts snake-charming its way over a surf-toned guitar.

Only on closer "The Creator Ravages" do we drift back into the zest of dreamy fifties-pop jangle and waltzy moon-gazing rounds characteristic to Dear Emily. The vibe, the tones, the sparse-stumbling skeletal song is soaked with sun-baked fuzz and head-swimming haze. That's the signature of Blessed Be, forming a captivating (and soulful) groove with as few connected-dots as possible…as though your leaping from lily-pad-bass-grooves and reaching your way up guitar-riffed-branches, jump, climb, stumble, and land. The other component is that this record not only sounds completely distinct to their last release – but it will end up sounding completely distinct from the live interpretations – "Creator" particularly, though soft and dreary on record, can wind up being a very fiery, visceral pounder often reserved for explosive set-closings.

Basically, this is a creepy, invigorating, record – and you're still not going to come any closer to pinning this band down…In fact, it's only getting harder with each new song…

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