Looking at the startling cover art, I knew I had to hear Mark Pritchard‘s new album, Under The Sun. Beyond his decades-long pedigree across many galaxies of the electronic music universe, this image seemed to portend an idea of something truly groundbreaking. While it might not shake up an industry, it’s certainly one of the most interesting releases from a man with several genre landmarks under his belt.
Mark Pritchard was known to me as one half of two different units: the recent Africa Hitech project with Steve Spacek and the groundbreaking 90s techno juggernaut Global Communication, with Tom Middleton. While the former produced some quality tunes for Warp music over the past several years, the latter crafted what is, quite simply, one of the greatest albums of modern times.
Global Communication’s definitive 76:14 is the premier ambient techno album of a generation, setting the high bar for an entire genre. Listening now, it clearly transcended the test of time in spectacular fashion, accumulating recognition and significance over the two decades since its release. It’s one of my favorite writing albums of all time, packed with music both intricately detailed for close listening and perfectly suited for drifting through a long night drive. Few albums manage to feel both meditative and anthemic in the same hot flush of ecstasy.
I want to emphasize the importance of that earlier album because Under The Sun is the first project of Pritchard’s solo career to come within spitting distance of that masterpiece. While it’s not the cohesive mood monolith of its forebear, the album reaches for similarly celestial transcendence.
A series of interstitial passages form the emotional backbone of this set, blurring the lines between epic rushes, vocal features, and more pop-oriented sequences. From Thom Yorke’s alien warble on Beautiful People to Linda Perhacs’ gorgeously unnerving folk sermon in You Wash My Soul, the standout moments shred the boundaries of genre with freewheeling abandon. It feels almost like an all-star producers’ album, full of left-field encounters like the beat poetry of Antipop Consortium’s Beans on The Blinds Cage. Yet Pritchard remains in total control of the narrative, reeling back to the glistening drone that underpins the entire experience at every turn.
Here’s the atmospheric heart of the album, Sad Alron. It’s a small but emotionally charged example of how this entire set gels together.