The sound of brass instruments makes me instinctively angry. Furious, in fact. The frequencies emitted by saxophones, in particular, vibrate at the same rate as my blood when it reaches boiling temperatures, and I slip into an uncontrolled rage whenever I hear one. Three exceptions exist: George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’, Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, and that sweet sax solo at the end of Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’. All other times, upon hearing a brass instrument, I leave the room before I become violent. I am not legally allowed to live within 500 yards of a jazz club.
Imagine my reaction, then, to the opening track ‘Jive Bros’ from PRAQ’s latest offering, Strom…
I am quite surprised, initially to find this kind of material being released via Bit Phalanx, as it is a struggle to find the electronic elements of PRAQ’s sound in the opening sax-in-your-face, jazz-without-the-innovation ‘Jive Bros’ and single ‘Mystification’. It may be a matter of personal taste, but I am so utterly put off by the first four minutes of the album that I am about to call it a day, switch off and can the review, diagnosis; unlistenable. Track three, ‘Minimal Undergrowth’ puts that idea on ice, giving a bit more texture beyond drums (great) and sax (physically painful), with some real rhythmic innovation and a bass groove as ominous as it is danceable - eminently, on both counts. The saxophone becomes utterly warped beyond recognition, and even disappears from the mix for most of ‘Minimal Undergrowth’, which allows my blood pressure to return to safe levels - I may yet survive to the end of this review.
‘Oh My Daze’ features Premrock, and between his rapping about Frank Zappa and the incredible, stuttering, way back behind the beat drumming, it’s enough of a powerful rhythmic combination to distract from the fact that the saxophone has returned with a vengeance. In fact, it’s back for good. There are few more moments of respite from it, although on ‘Continental Heat’ it’s again warped, harmonised and actually sounds decent, and adds another innovative layer to the track, making ‘Continental Heat’ a real standout on Strom for me.
‘Full Moon Circle’ is another peak thanks to Kay Elizabeth’s vocal, and the urgency of the tempo, drums all wild, saxophone all present. Closing track ‘Big White Telephone’ is one of the few really boundary pushing tracks on the album, sounding like live IDM, minimal to begin with, rhythmically challenging and building to its intense close. There is one thing I just cannot get past from this experience, however; I never realised just how much I despised the saxophone as a concept, sound and also object, until I listened to Strom by PRAQ. I could not listen to this album again - I think it would damage me as a person. But if you like jazz fusion melodies over IDM played on live drums, PRAQ is your new favourite artist, and Strom your album of 2017!
Released June 2, 2017