Joni Mitchell may have had an album called Hejira, but that’s where comparisons between her and these experimental indie proggers end. At times the music collected on Prayer Before Birth is deliberately awkward, demanding the listener’s undivided attention so they can truly comprehend what the band are endeavouring to achieve, and it’s all the finer for it.
This is a recording that is undoubtedly late-night listening, crammed with atmospheric and haunting melodies. Fields Of Rooftops exemplifies this approach, with lilting piano and strings set beneath beautiful vocals.
The mix and high calibre of the material is at times startling. Litmus has a stripped down industrial feel, Powercut and Dancing Around Control mix seductive vocals with catchy, distorted choruses and the virtual a cappella displayed on The Penny is as impeccable as it is unexpected. They’re also skilful at adapting their sound into a more accessible form, such as on Pinter, which still manages to retain their experimental bluster.
There are fleeting moments when you wish they’d restrain themselves, and closer Reprise smacks of filler, but this is still remarkably infectious.