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Prinzhorn Dance School – S/T

DFA Records, 2007

Based on my previous post about shopping by record label, I decided to heed my own advice by picking up a copy of Prinzhorn Dance School’s debut record.  It wasn’t the DFA imprint that attracted me so much as the Astralwerks one, since I have heard some pretty good stuff from that label in the past.  Therefore, when the rather bleak, black-and-white art cover and the simple, typewritten song list spoke listlessly to me, I thought it might be a halfway decent subtle, experimental electronic record.  Little did I know that I would be subjecting myself in a record label’s attempt to branch out … (sigh)

Prinzhorn Dance School are a husband and wife duo that have put together a very stripped down effort.  On most songs, a bass is often used as the introduction to songs while drums eventually rap about without much flair.  Ultimately, the main sound coming out of this band are the vocals of Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn.  Unlike most bands, Prinz mostly speak-sings his lyrics that lack a bit in diversity.  The first song of “Black Bunker” consistently reminds the listener that they are in the black bunker, they are in the black bunker.  Sure, there’s a couple of stanzas that illustrate someone who is seriously down on their luck, but c’mon man, how often can you drably repeat the title of the song?  Thirteen times in three minutes, apparently.

Some songs do have a little bit of a groove that one can get caught up in if they’re not too dragged out by the singing.  “You Are the Space Invader” actually puts together a rather rousing scene near the end of the song with a spiraling guitar solo that overpowers the sinister bass and drum combination.  “Eat, Sleep”, while consisting of primarily the phrase “eat and sleep”, uses that strong bass to guide some lighter guitar dabbling.  However, aside from some interestingly crafted songs with minimal instrumentation, one can get rather bored with having to hear Prinz flatly speaking his lines while Horn yells periodically behind him.  Unlike an earlier Liars, who also employ an unique approach to their music, Prinzhorn Dance School don’t bother to energize or drown out their off-kilter lyrics.  They are, in a sense, similar to Beat Happening with their simplicity.  However, they do seem to know how to play their instruments, so Calvin Johnson and crew won’t be sensing a BH rip off anywhere here.

I haven’t found too much of their music online, but of course, there’s always the slew of videos on their website:  Prinzhorn Dance School

The band includes the inscription “This record has been made to be played loud.” at the end of their liner notes.  I have gone back and forth wondering if this was meant as a joke or if the band truly believes that their sparse approach really has a quiet power behind it that, of course, should be escalated with volume.  On one hand I like the basslines that the band employs, however, I dislike the focus on two vocalists that are rather lacking in appeal.  Therefore, since I figured this really was going to be some kind of electro-groove effort, I’ve gotta call this one a bust.  It’s possible that, if the band puts out another record with a little more behind it, Prinzhorn Dance School could turn into an intriguing band that doesn’ t rely on overwhelming sound.  Until then, these guys will remain merely as a British concoction that mostly seems to fit in with the art crowd.

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