To understand why Prose and Kahns is such an achievement, one must become familiar with the circumstances leading to its conception. The origin of some of these songs are from years ago, before Old English—with its supporting cast of over 20 people—was simply Matt Henderson making songs with loops.
As he collaborated more and more, the Matt Henderson solo project became Old English, and thus vast new possibilities opened up for Henderson. No longer was he bound to what could be accomplished by running between keyboards, guitars and pedals. Now at his disposal he has percussion, banjo, horns and so much more.
But Old English is not all about Henderson, otherwise he probably wouldn’t have gone with the name change. There’s the steady guitar of Daniel Halyburton; the reliable drumming from Thom Macfarlane; the multi-instrumental mastery of Matt Froese and Mark Underdown; the sweet vocals of Jessica Underdown; the proud horns of go-to horn player Ben Bowen and the scintillating synths of Matt Masters.
There are a ton of people involved, but it’s never a case of the old cliché of too many cooks in the kitchen. The huge lineup allows for each song to take any number of twists and turns. “Runner-Up” opens up the album first with the recording of somebody pulling up in a car, getting out of the car and opening a door. Then the music starts, a kind of funereal keyboard, then a bunch of swirling sounds that flows seamlessly into “Anchors,” the first full song on the album and also one of the strongest. A combination of guitar, xylophone and horns is a great way to grab attention, and the song progresses into almost a ritual with a chorus of voices chanting and clapping.
“We’ve Been Here Before” amps up the energy, and it’s a great song, as noted previously. “The Corrections” starts off sounding like something that could have come out of a music box with it’s orchestral-sounding synths, and sure enough, it ends with the actual sound of a music box.
At over seven minutes, “Older Things” manages to pack a lot in, starting ominously with glitchy synth lines and even a harmonica. It seems to be the band’s brief dip into a roots sound, and it even includes a banjo at one point. It’s starkly contrasted by “We Can Never Have It All” with its industrial beats which eventually morphs into an ordered cacophony of electronics and samples all underneath some great group vocals.
“Layaway” has Jessica Underdown providing some solo vocals for a brief time before Henderson joins in, all sung over spacey synths. “Farmer’s Tan” is an older song that begins with an urgent beat and then briefly calming down before exploding again as the chorus breaks out.
“Pop Shop” is the the last complete song on the album and draws the recording near to the end gently, coming across almost as an electronic lullaby. “My Dear Neighbours” ends the album with swirling synths and chattering voices.
Prose and Kahns is the result of large-scale collaboration, and it’s one that has resulted in a collection of complex, layered tracks that can exude happiness and melancholy often in the same song. The album is warm and inviting, matching perfectly the accessible atmosphere every time the band performs live.
The album will be available tomorrow, February 5, but you can listen to the entire album and even download a pre-release sampler from Bandcamp.
Top Tracks: “Anchors”; “We Can Never Have It All”; “Farmer’s Tan”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*