With psychedelic-inflected vocals, nuanced and louche, the ghostly apparition that is Tom Crandles’s musical project Prudence has just released ‘Negatives’. It is a gothic-flavoured collection that reflects the period of turmoil over the last few years, bleeding through every pore, and yet seems to offer a glimpse of hope in the end.
Opening track ‘Introduction’ is a brief burst of ominous bass, ghostly guitars, backward tracked vocals – – a sort of aural mise-en-scène for what’s to come. Second track, ‘Waste Some Time’, extends this dense, mysterious presence with Crandles’s voice a distant reverberated filigree over thumping percussion and piano, filled with a sneering disdain. Crandles says of the track:
‘Waste Some Time’ was one of the last compositions for Negatives. Its substance sits in its linear structure. The concept was to create what feels like a pop song with no verse or chorus and a progressive structure having no section repeat.
Leaving the dark shade to an extent, ‘I Give Up’ sets off with a capering pace, gently plucking guitars and keys that contrast with the fatalistic lyrics and a sense of doom. The track ebbs and flows under Crandles’s voice, setting up an hypnotic flow. ‘No Sign of Life’ has densely layered vocals and instrumentation: almost a claustrophobic wall of sound that wanders and twists out of shape in a psychedelic whirl.
‘Here And Now’ veers into a breezier pop lane with an almost soul infused flavour while the distant vocals remain to some degree melancholic in contrast – a sense of unfilled yearning under the jangling guitars and the antithetically bright and brooding synths. ‘Caramel’ continues this pace with Crandles’s vocals cracking with deep emotions – soft, almost whispered desire seep through every note while sky-high instrumentation etches trails in the air over a wandering bass line. The lyrics reflect the tone of the album: enigmatic, anxious, impatient: I’m chasing this river to the sea where my dreams impatiently await me, I feel it coming and I know I’ll be dreaming for a minute at a time .
‘S On S’ recalls the sombre introduction: starting off with ominous deep bass droplets that hold together splashes of guitar while the vocals are deep and sonorous far in the distance. As the sounds augment and develop, there is a dark brooding element, free of perceptible percussion and hanging suspended in the ether. Crandles creates a dream like fugue in the delivery: hypnotising and raw. The track picks up and fills in the spaces, becoming something that is quite immense over its totality.
‘I Am A Lot Like You’ with its arpeggiated synths and wandering piano is filled with sounds and noise off stage and a self loathing in the lyrics:
You showed me a thing or two about you, now I’m back and pathetic as ever…
The brooding dark, gothicism of the music then launches into an almost jaunty step contrasting with the lyrics. ‘Save It For Me’ continues the same vein: bright almost poppy music, serpentine bass lines with an undercurrent of ominous lyrics and Crandles’s voice a dissociated presence that sneers, cajoles and urges.
Crystalline, razor sharp guitars immediately focus attention on the anthemic single ‘It’s Useless’: they ring out like bells as the steady paced track commences with an euphoric, effortless march.
Crandles says of the track:
‘It’s Useless’ is one of my preferred tracks on the record. Lyrically it follows the record’s theme of futility and “Negative” sentiments, (something I’d like to think I’ve moved past but was present at the time of conception) however musically juxtaposed by what i’d like to think is an uplifting feeling of joy when the song comes together.
Indeed there is a euphoric crescendo to the track: indelible melodies and spectral instrumentation give it a sense of grace and presence. The brief opening is dark and nightmarish before the guitars start to sparkle while the vocals are melancholic and yearning and the bass provides a sinuous and supple spine throughout. There is a touch of shoegaze in the wall of sound and a dream pop fugue in the delivery.
‘The Sound of Your Voice’ has an imperious majesty about it: stately, bold, anthemic with a sense of resilience – an almost an optimistic resolution with the introduction of something that approximates romanticism. This flows through to the final instrumental track ‘Recognition’: it is almost as if we have taken a journey through Crandle’s world over the last few years that was immersed in darkness then slowly emerged into some form of acceptance and resolution. It is a slow moving track, aquatic and sibilant with a vibrant eloquent bass that seems to speak and cry. A euphoric conclusion to a troubled journey.
Taken as a whole, ‘Negatives’ is just that: a reversal of light collected into twelve songs, darkened outlines that shimmer imperceptibly with Crandles’s voice a distant presence observing the vicissitudes of life through the dark miasma of the music. It feels like a deeply personal journey into the heart of darkness albeit with a delicious indulgent, cathartic sheen that seems to emerge at the end into the sunlight. It is a magnificent journey to be taken on.
‘Negatives’ is out now and available through the link below.
Feature Photograph: McLean Stephenson