Review Summary: Desire, as portrayed through a lens of semi-political dourness.
There’s something utterly divisive and confrontational about sparse, minimalistic music. For some, its bare bones are a sight unpleasant to gaze; too naked and stark to be truly enjoyed. With Clay Class
, Brighton, England’s Prinzhorn Dance Studio (whose name stems from Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who collected the art of his mentally ill patients) don’t strive to convert such listeners, with an album as spare and trudging as you’d like; yet manage to outlay something which somehow still could.
It’s in the oblique, slogan-like lines Tobin Prinz delivers, with an icy-cold lack of anything approaching emotional chutzpah but a voice that simultaneously grasps the phonetic intricacies of cold-hard, gloomy intent, with his accented, angular tone. The words he sings are just as important – a cryptic and intriguing barrage of downtrodden outcasts of desire, prosed in almost political fashion which subverts the typical singer/songwriter trappings of simply explaining sadness in a sad voice. He offers a more opaque stance that spews lines which are as personal as they are political: “got off the treadmill, treadmill/Got in the breadline, breadline” serving as an example.
Musically, Clay Class
doesn’t stand a chance of converting those who like their radio waves overflowing with noise, however. Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn (see what they did there?) strip indie rock back to its bare, post-punk roots, with stringent, steady bass chords, sparse percussion and squalling lead flashes which dance over the top, as nervous and twitching as the remaining seven legs of spider, when one of its legs is caught, pinched between the fingers of an assailant. It’s slow and trudging, never evoking excitement, opting for a paced march though sodden ground instead. It’s not particularly easy to enjoy but unravels itself over time, making sense when coupled with the angular vocal delivery.
It’s an oblique little record then, as restrained and dour musically as it is lyrically. But what it does with those elements is consistently intriguing, and atypical enough to make the group stand out from fellow post-punk revivalists. Clay Class
won’t astound or awe; it won’t fill that empty space in your head that acts as a musical screensaver when one fades into boredom whilst stood in a queue because it’s not big or obvious. But it is clever, and for the right audience, its exacting manner and dour self-awareness are as delightful to behold as any 3 minute, hook-laden pop tune, because they are elements of an artier, more intriguing sound; and one Prinzhorn do a thoroughly solid job of portraying here.