Mark Pritchard’s illustrious career has seen him come full circle from the spacious, emotive ambience of 90s project Global Communication and back again, through a plethora of aliases, collaborations and stylistic ventures too numerous to name. Though his encyclopaedic discography has never felt scattered or unfocused, it’s nonetheless been a pleasure to see him settle down in recent years to a more singular approach: abandoning his various monikers and the emphasis on club music that accompanied them, he narrowed his focus dramatically in 2016 with the release of ‘Under The Sun’, a curiously original statement that demonstrated a shift of attention away from beats and BPMs and towards texture, mood and melody.
The follow-up to that record is ‘The Four Worlds’, an eight-track series of sonic vignettes that feels very much like a cohesive whole, only divided for the sake of convenience. The album has a captivating singularity of tone and mood that’s slowly and masterfully built over the course of its 33 minutes, and it elicits an oddly specific kind of feeling, best described as a sense of disorientation, or dislocation. The feeling you might get from waking up in an unknown world, with little memory of how you got there.
This feeling of misplacement is only underscored by the unearthly visuals and artwork created in collaboration with artist Jonathan Zawada, whom Pritchard worked with for his previous record. The videos for “Come Let Us” and “Glasspops” survey a kind of alien landscape, coloured with otherworldly hues and populated with strange, contextless objects. It works perfectly, and its a rare to find an example of an artist so successfully capturing the mood and feel of a record in visuals.
As with ‘Under The Sun’, ‘The Four Worlds’ it exists in a kind of liminal space, a Venn-like region of in-between that encompasses many areas without fully occupying any. It’s ostensibly an ambient record, but with few of the tropes and trappings usually accompanying the genre. It’s in no way calm or serene, but neither is it dark and doom-laden.
"The album has a captivating singularity of tone and mood that’s slowly and masterfully built over the course of its 33 minutes, it elicits an oddly specific kind of feeling, best described as a sense of disorientation, or dislocation. The feeling you might get from waking up in an unknown world, with little memory of how you got there."
Much of the timbres heard are remarkably distinctive, gloomily beautiful synth patches that sound like field recordings from the alien environments of Pritchard’s imagination. Some of these are stunningly strange: there’s a unsettling sound in album closer “The Four Worlds” that sounds like a mutant cross between Balinese gamelan instruments and Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting In A Room”.
There’s little in the way of structure or development in ‘Four Worlds’, but this undoubtedly works in the records favour, only adding to the sense of being adrift in unknown surroundings. The tracks appear like extra-terrestrial beings in Venusian fog, present for only enough time to give a glimpse into another existence, fading away without a clue as to their intention.
‘Come Let Us‘, a spoken word piece from cult radio artist Gregory Whitehead that’s layered over distant drones, creeps along at a suspenseful pace without going anywhere, content just to set an eerily paranoid mood as subtle audio manipulations are deftly woven into the words. It’s spoken word pieces like these that raise the record above simply being a triumphant oddity of mood and tone, an exercise in dislocation, and show it to be something more conceptual: in ‘S.O.S‘, outsider artist the Space Lady invokes a kind of elegy for a lost earth, accompanied by Terry Riley-esque synth incantations, asking “all friends in all dimensions / can you hear our heartfelt plea?”, reading as a message to the cosmos as our own planet slowly dies.
‘The Four Worlds‘ feels strange and contextless, a peculiar statement that may seem at first like it doesn’t know what it’s aiming for. Don’t be fooled though, as this bewildered unfamiliarity is an aim in itself. Pulled away from the record and taken as singular statements, any of these eight tracks might not make much sense, but together, they cohere into something weirdly beautiful.
The Four Worlds is out now and is available in LP, CD and digital formats, order a copy here.
2. Circle of Fear
3. Come Let Us Feat. Gregory Whitehead
4. The Arched Window
5. S.O.S. Feat. The Space Lady
6. Parkstone Melody II
8. The Four Worlds