George Pringle is very easy to fall in love with. She’s pretty to the extent that that ultimately pointless and antithetical “no, I refuse to like you, that would be far too obvious” mechanism clicks in. (It soon clicks out). And she’s also one of those annoyingly young, well-educated (and well-spoken), naturally creative types with the ability to compose music that, for all intents and purposes, sounds fresh and interesting.
And she does it on her own, on a shoestring budget and via her own record label. And, to make matters worse, she can just about get away with face-crumpling references to Street Fighter II. Galling, isn’t it? It’s probably easier to be irritated by her; but for now, there are far too many reasons to remain besotted.
Over two years ago, George Pringle featured in one of those equally irritating mainstream media-sanctioned this-is-the-new-music-which-we-say-is-big-so-it-will-be-big pieces. Virtually all of its predictions (shock) have come good. Laura Marling, Kate Nash, Adele… George Pringle?
OK, so one of them is playing catch up. But listening to Pringle’s debut album, Salon Des Refusés, with its complex mesh of homespun electro alchemy and loosely lyrical streams-of-consciousness, reveals something of a labour of love. While Pringle’s sound is, at times, intentionally tacky, there’s time-consuming and painstaking sampling, programming and re-programming going on here. Salon Des Refusés is an electronic treasure trove. Little wonder the album took its time to materialise.
By turning her back on guitar-based music after discovering the free GarageBand software on her MacBook, Pringle effectively stuck two fingers up at the conventional path of insipid Patti Smith imitation and started clashing her dry, art school-educated musings with rustic Chicago house, hip hop beats and trancey synth snippets. It’s a contradiction that can feel a little uncomfortable at times, just like LCD Soundsystem might rankle with self-styled purists. But this is the kind of interracial genre-bending that a stale music industry needs. The good news for those with an open mind is that Salon Des Rufuses is bold, experimental and, ultimately, very refreshing.
It’s pretty clear that Pringle has been exposing herself to American anti-label DFA. DFA is, of course, home to LCD Soundsystem and other like-minded underground dance-punkers. Some of Salon Des Refusés’ beats, bleeps and synths are certainly funky enough to feature on a DFA record. Physical Education (Part 1)’s recollections of lustful adolescence are energised by its surging I Feel Love-esque disco house – something which the perpetually self-aware Pringle makes reference to during the track.
Occasionally, Pringle uses her beats more like a hip hop foundation, enabling her to overlay slow-moving landscapes of eccentric futurism with reams of spoken poetry that call Talking Heads and Baz Luhrmann‘s Wear Sunscreen single to mind. Carte Postale, the album’s lyrical highlight, drifts indefinitely as a series of interlocked diary entries and meandering afterthoughts, and hits like an intensified dream from poor, interrupted sleep. The album presents the listener with an odd juxtaposition of styles. Figuring out whether to dance or listen to the record takes a bit of time. Sometimes it’s just better to disengage completely and let the tracks, especially the drugged-up 10 minute epic Bonjour Tristesse, induce a mind-fucked slow dance.
Anyone would be forgiven for initially thinking Salon Des Refusés is little more than an exercise in blush-causing pretension and self-indulgence, but the spasmodic flow of the album keeps it from overplaying on any of its vices. Pringle’s eccentric flair for creativity, borne out vicariously through GarageBand wizadry, prevents her haughty meditations and perfectly-enunciated references to shoegaze, Fellini, drainpipe jeans and video games from ever becoming irritating. And what’s the point of being irritated by an album that should be accepted for what it is: self-styled, unique and exciting. Prepare to fall in love.