The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
It’s fair to say Pram were way ahead of their time. They were mixing strangely evocative sounds from the past, arcane atmospheres and curiously timeless music rooted in exotica and Krautrock long before Ghost Box and before Simon Reynolds called this stuff ‘Hauntology’. They’re back with their first LP in 10 years the excellent ‘Across the Meridian’ and I was very pleased to catch a very rare live appearance by them.
Defying the “long hot summer” of 2018 and the festival season, the faithful are gathered in the basement of the Soup Kitchen which it turns out is damp and cool like all good cellars. The lights dim and vaguely unsettling, ghostly images of masked figures running around a spooky house flicker across the screens while bird song plays – and we’re transported away from Brexit, austerity and the muggy temperatures above ground into Pram’s wonderfully weird and playful world.
The set is largely drawn from the new record and begins with ‘Shimmer and Disappear’ which sets the scene perfectly – the band are all versatile players so there are trombones, woodwind, a Theremin, samplers, synths as well as the guitar bass and drums and all are deployed to full effect. It just sounds glorious, absurd and giddy and immediately reels you in so you know this isn’t just any old gig.
There have been many line up changes. Former Lead vocalist Rosie Cuckston has left to pursue academia, but long term Pramster Sam Owen steps up admirably and she handles vocals as well as switching between Bass, Clarinet, Flute, Accordian, Keys and percussion and she’s joined by Matthew Eaton and Max Simpson from the original band as well as Harry Dawes on trombone and Theremin who has been with them a mere 12 years . On drums is the great Fliss Kitson on loan from the Nightingales who adds a percussive drive which also amps up the weirdness of what we’re hearing. Wow.
A good turn out for a low key gig in the middle of the silly season, and everyone seemed to be digging it and up for the ride into the Pram wormhole.
It made me think..
What a wonderful and strange band they are – I’ve seen them a few times years ago mostly supporting bands like Broadcast and Stereolab but this is by far the best performance I’ve seen them do, the new LP is really strong and more people need to hear this so I hope they pencil some more gigs in. Get the new record, and keep yr eye out for more shows.