Pram's striking new album Across The Meridian arrives 11 years after its acclaimed predecessor on Domino Records, 2007's The Moving Frontier. The time has been well spent and the LP is a celebration of much of Pram's iconic quirkiness, focused into a beautifully constructed and tautly produced soundworld. As with previous efforts, it mixes instrumentals and songs, weaving a gleeful path through the musical territory of film scores, '30s jazz, sun-drenched pop, electronica, and post-punk experimentation. Sam Owen's haunting and wistful voice is set in a variety of soundscapes, sometimes appearing as a snatched fragment of the subconscious and dreamlike, at others crafting a story of longing or regret, drawing the listener into Pram's uncanny world through the mirror.
Over the years, Pram have expanded their ideas to encompass disorientating shifts in mood and texture, which help make Across The Meridian one of the more original albums of 2018. The instrumental opener "Shimmer And Disappear" is a storm of sounds, music and images, featuring a brass melody that come across like a 1960s film soundtrack to a scene in a bustling Moroccan market before leaping stylistic boundaries into a chorus like something Joe Meek might have cooked up.
Pram are essentially a product of the post-punk late 80s, inspired by the likes of The Raincoats and The Slits and the way that those groups, as Matt Eaton puts it, seemed to have "invented their own way of playing music." Similarly Pram have always sounded like they make up their own rules, including an inventively open approach to rhythm and timing. And on Across The Meridian their use of theremin
and the manipulation of instruments also adds a certain harmonic wooziness.