The feeling of nostalgia is something that permeates contemporary popular music in so many ways. The rise of vaporwave and lo-fi hip-hop, tv-series grounded in the eighties imagery, pop music that mixes eighties tones with modern production. But how do you infuse your music with nostalgia without using any of the above features? A band from the far east will tell you: the name is Prune Deer and the album is Insufficient postage. The Chinese name of the band is Huamei Lu and I say this because these young musicians come from Hong Kong, a place historically known for instrumental music, post-rock and math rock, styles that fit perfectly to the way of making music of the Deer. From their first single HeatDeath 熱寂, they expanded the vocabulary in terms of tone and arrangements and with the EP Insufficient Postage they reach a new milestone along the way. The album cover is an old-fashioned picture ruined by the time, showing the actual members of P.D. posing like a family portrait, looking at the camera and with a date written in a corner: 16th February in 1987. Let’s dive in.
- Voice Mail #1
- Return – feat. Haru Nemuri
- By Air – feat. Ashley Tsang, LK-072
- Voice Mail #2
The opening track, called Voice Mail #1, it’s a field recording of chirping birds that live not so far from an airport, you can clearly hear the landing and lifting off of the airplanes, an urban landscape that makes you think of a distant journey towards a mysterious destination while life continues for those who stay.
Stalling comes up as a jam between the guys and culminates in a harmonic instrumental composition in major key that has some moody elements that make uneasy to understand the boundaries between the key and its relative natural minor. Stalling is a word meaning being blocked, being stuck, so the tune turns around the topic with decisive crescendos and momentum falling into tranquility in the right spots. The drums make an excellent work in serving the song with strong fills along with the crescendos and the pretty oriental strings at the end unchain the situation of stalling.
The third track Return features the Japanese Haru Nemuri as female voice over the instruments but it’s recorded like being a far echo, a person distant from the listener, a person speaking at the phone as you can hear at the beginning. Verse and chorus are made up by the changes in mood in the conversation until a final build-up with distorted guitars and the speaker talking in an angry way. A song of rejoining or departure?
1988.8.9 is the title of the following song and it’s clearly a specific date, but not the same as the album cover. Similar in intention to the previous track and with the same doubtful key between the major and the relative minor, it hangs slightly towards the latter. Maybe the two dates represent the beginning and the end of a story: who knows? It doesn’t matter if they’re meaningful for the band or not, the mystery around the dates is intriguing.
By Air is the single that anticipated the EP and it’s the ideal dream for the vaporwavers out there: old-fashioned video-clip with tapes and tape recorders, old telephones, field recordings, and sunset. An airplane leads into the song keeping the topic of distance and nostalgia, an official alert communicates details about the Hong Kong-Japan distance underlining a sense of departure. Another female voice, this time by Ashley Tsang, expresses mixed feelings of love and anger, maybe due to a broken relationship: It’s not easy to hate, but enough to burn the horizon in flame.
Voice Mail #2 isn’t similar to the first one at all. No chirping birds here, only white noise. Something is broken and cannot be recovered. There’s just some spoon-on-glass noise in the background and nothing else.
What remains of it all is Wreckage. Some background noises and a sweet guitar that strums in a gentle way together with a bass keeping long notes. The time to hear some chords and everything ends. The curtains close.
I like to think of Insufficient Postage like a mature EP for a band that’s getting closer and closer to a specific sound. I’ve listened to it on Spotify, but it’s available on the tube through footage of the release party of the EP with the entire thing added in post-production and this adds another layer of meaning. Like a collective creature that slowly grows up, Prune Deer is looking for its place in the world, and now or then these guys will find the right airplane to elevate their music by air.
Written for you by Music Pills
Previous moody review: Tanya Barany and her Lights Disappear
Previous lo-fi vibes review: Milo and his Budding Ornithologists Are Weary Of Tired Analogies
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