Under normal circumstances, the English language tends to lose regional intonation and rhoticity when singing. But due to their shouty vocals, Prinzhorn Dance School remain distinctly British and angsty. Named after psychologist Hans Prinzhorn, the Brighton duo, comprised of Tobi Prinz and Suzi Horn, shout through four of the six tracks on their third full-length, Home Economics.
Since their critically acclaimed self-titled debut in 2007, Prinzhorn Dance School have encapsulated minimalist dance-punk, stripping the genre of its synth and electronic gimmicks. Clay Class (2012), too, was a breath of fresh air as indie and mainstream champions increasingly replaced organic instruments with digital elements. As a mighty exception to the organic composition of capital, Prinz and Horn continue to exert this distinction while breaking new ground with Home Economics.
A common critique of Clay Class was a lack of stylistic differentiation between the sophomore effort and Prinzhorn Dance School’s debut. But the duo’s blasé attitude toward commercial reception gives them the freedom to experiment at their own pace while adhering strictly to their simple instrumentation; if Clay Class felt like a transition, Home Economics makes sense as a destination.
The overall pace of this new record is slower, a sort of end to the rallentando we felt with Clay Class. Prinzhorn Dance School’s distinct sound allows the length of the album to be effective; however, considering its new stylistic balance, Home Economics could (if it had wanted to) extend past its six tracks without the overwhelming feeling of Prinzhorn Dance School.
Lead single “Reign” carries a steady bassline throughout and, though it could hardly be described as smooth, it more closely resembles the relatively melodic mid-section of Clay Class.
One feature missing on Home Economics is the band’s typical vocal volley: Horn cannot be heard solo on the record and vocals are few and far between, period; a guitar motif often stands in lieu of normal verses as is the case with the first half of the record. When they vocalize in unison, Prinz and Horn’s slight discordance is perfectly suited for “Battlefield” and add an aggressiveness to “Education.”
Clean guitar carries through “Clean,” where Prinzhorn Dance School sing on rare occasion. Here their musings on precipitation and new beginnings are, funnily enough, reminiscent of Hilary Duff’s 2003 single, “Come Clean.” Prinz and Horn sing: “Come if you are / Clean I’m clean / Put your head out the door / And smell the rain / And start again.”
As heard previously on “I Want You” (Clay Class), Horn’s melodic vocals lose their shouty angst, becoming a pleasant twee layer atop Prinz’s steadfast baritone. The singing itself isn’t a new element, but on Home Economics, a sweetness we hadn’t heard from Prinz before is present as he asks a loved one for space on “Let Me Go.” Enter a string harmony towards the end, tangy enough that we suspect it may in fact be a guitar; along with the rumbling bass, this final piece sounds almost like a Noah and the Whale song.
At six tracks, Home Economics is neatly, but sharply manicured and Prinzhorn Dance School more at peace with their angsty demeanor than ever. Fans of the debut will find sanctuary in the looming guitar, erratic percussion, and more aggressive vocals of “Haggle” and “Education;” meanwhile, “Clean” and “Let Me Go” feel domestically agreeable as “Reign” and “Battlefield” sit the fence somewhere between. If the black-and-white contrast was sharp with Prinzhorn Dance School before, it is now hi-def with an additional colour dimension.
The album is out June 9 via DFA Records; we’re also looking forward to a tour from the duo who not only have a tendency to dip into obscurity before each album but have also yet to play a full US run.
Article by Joanna Jiang