PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” ***

Recorded 2004

 

Prp Group are (were?) a British trio of Ashley Clarke (drums), Richard Riz Errington (guitar, electronics) and Michael Clough (bass).  In the 1980s, all three were active in another formation known as Rancid Poultry. 

 

Prp Group’s sound is based on a smooth, interactive flow between the three, fully enfranchised musicians.  Often yielding to the lure of rock jamming, the band has been on a continuous quest for definitive sound.  Each recording seemed to tap into different deposits of experimental rock – from tropospheric space jams, through post-punk’s self-regulating ostinatos, to smelting guitar trio feedbacks. 

 

It is not clear if the band is still in existence.  Their output from earlier in this decade documents well various phases of their stylistic research.  At the same time, their intriguing CDRs carried a promise that they would eventually go beyond the rehearsal stage.

 

 

Ptarmigans

The track begins with a subterrestrial bass vibrato and rim shots from Ashley Clarke.  The succulent bass morphs into a regular ostinato, underlying the contrast with the dissicated drumstick work – in an (unintended?) resemblance to good old A Certain Ratio.  After about 20 turns, cymbals check in, cushioning a cleanly combed electric guitar which reverberates in the distance.  The guitar’s tickle and giggle iterations become brassy, gaining an almost timbales-like resonance, but the high-pitched notes’ call for the timbales answer will remain aperiodic.  A drum’n’bass dialogue walks in spryly, despite Jah Wobble-like bass tuning.  One just can’t dispel the memory of PIL’s “Fodderstompf” from 30 years ago (ouch !).  This is definitely not a space rock jam as we have known it from many talented US bands over the last decade.  Rather, Prp Group stays quite restrained and almost reluctant to engage in disorienting crotchets.  Although the extended, slow moving structure allows the guitar to improvise freely, Richard Errington appears surprisingly constrained, incorporating fairly minimal variance.  Finally, the drumming becomes more forceful and some additional treatments rear their buzzing heads.  This is when additional wooden percussive effects appear – sounding like angklung or a small bamboo xylophone. 

 

Shatner’s Bassoon

This piece starts with cyclonic electro-fluctuations and an extra-metric drumming hiccup – regular enough to sound like a sample.  The hi-hat is quite lonely in its chore, groping for understanding bass figure.  Some droning cylinders pivot incessantly – now you hear’em, now you don’t.  The repetition is slowly earning a loop-sounding, systemic character and the accent shifts offbeat.  Soon afterwards, it is reduced to pure, sputtering electronics.

 

Cow

Michael Clough’s relaxing bass exposes an obsessively simplistic, 9-note songlike phrase.  Languid drums and dry guitar clang do little to distract us from this self-defeating idea.  Echoing drum rims, acoustic guitar, purring electronic surge, crash cymbals and ratchet will all apportion some non-linearity, but the lack of convincing development is problematic.  Dub treatment selectively tackles drum reverb, but Adrian Sherwood this is not.  Some of the echoplex treatments are even a little childish, and those that do work are overfamiliar – a metallic pipe effect, alternatively extended reverb and damping of cymbals.  This amounts to little more than explorations into sustain and muting.  The listener’s attention is finally rewarded by “chopsticking” on a hard surface – light and multiplied many times over until smeared out into a buzz – a moment worthy of François Bayle or Bernard Parmegiani.  Unfortunately, a marching version of the elementary theme ruins the tail end.  A rocket lift-off noise will lead us directly into the next piece.

 

Dub Version of the Previous Track

This misleading title picks up where the “Cow” left off, but throws “dub” out of the window.  Yes, we do have reverb and even much of that, but it turns the aural environment into flywheels of electromagnetic buzz, fraught with sizzle, frizzle and feedback.  The pitch control is fairly slow; the amplitude control a little more varied.  The oscillations fingerpoint some blackbird tweets, panning between the right and left channel.  There is some intentional feedback from a speaker that sounds as if it had caught the waveforms from a fluorescent bulb nearby.  With the top range teeming with swarms of insects and the lower end hammering resoundingly, the days of contemporary studio luminaries (Milton Babbitt or Richard Maxfield) seem to be back.  Just the (very acoustic) drumming occasionally adds a non-academic twist to the concoction.  Again, this track will seamlessly sublimate into the next one. 

 

The Elephant Charmer

The carry-over drumming intensifies, increasingly emphatic and bruising.  Ashley Clarke pounds with abandon to the limit of our Faustian imagination.  It could almost segue into “it’s a rainy day, sunshine baby” as in the recent live recordings of the Diermeier-Peron version of the legendary kraut-band.  Prp Group will instead keep socking, with a riffless fuzz guitar sustaining its chords.

 

***

 

The discography of prpGroup is limited to relatively short CDRs.  Positions 1 and 2 were later collected on one CDR entitled “Penfruit/Babylard”.  Likewise, 3 and 4 can be found on one CDR.  Unfortunately, I have not heard position 5. 

 

1. PRP GROUP: “Penfruit” (2001)

2. PRP GROUP: “Babylard” (2002)

3. PRP GROUP: “Snib” (2003)

4. PRP GROUP: “Sun Pie in a Custard Pie” (2003)

5. PRP GROUP: “Soil Pipe” (?)

6. PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” (2004)

 

Aside from Rancid Poultry, Clough had also played in duo with Errington (as Clothearz) and with Clarke (as AMA).  At the moment, Sonic Asymmetry is not aware of any other recordings by PrpGroup.  Are you?

 

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Published in: on July 8, 2008 at 6:06 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. “PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” *** Sonic
    Asymmetry” was a remarkable blog post, can not wait to examine much more of your
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    Thanks -Tiffiny


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