DATE: Saturday, 01-10-2022
VENUE: Das Werk, Main Floor, 23:00-00:00
The Richmond, Virginia duo’s work offers escape while also holding up a mirror to where we’re at societally – and yelling about it. The music, then, is meeting the need both sonically and subject-wise for what they weren’t hearing elsewhere, evolving over the years alongside the conversation of its two members, friends Parker Black and Warren Jones. Their sound is a genuine reaction to the world around them: we are already in the apocalypse. Where once Prison Religion’s songs looked out to space, on their most recent album, Hard Industrial Bop, the pair have fallen back to earth, defecting against the laws of a war-torn planet, fighting against an impenetrable world order of known abusers and fear. This is manifested in the caustic wall of sound, heavy beats akin to public gunshots, mumbled screams like breaking glass, thumping flourishes of techno or weighty drones. Like hard bop challenged established jazz back in the 1950s, their latest record is one that channels the exploratory nature of jazz, constantly subverting and up-ending where you think the duo’s music will take you at any given moment. Their wails aren’t mere 2D angry yelling or relentless bleakness, either – there is a radical hope and sense of possibility here, coaxing the world to collapse in on itself. And in the warm ripples of laughter, heady thuds of the dancefloor or occasionally self-effacing lines, you can hear joy and playfulness hidden in the shadows. More and more, their recorded music aims to capture the uninhibited, raw energy of their live shows. The live setup at a Prison Religion show has evolved into two CDJs that leave the pair facing each other, in back and forth discussion with one another, bringing the audience inside the show rather than performing to them: using music as a conduit to exchange energy with the crowd, their CDJs bringing an instrumentality, augmentation and exploration beyond what might traditionally be considered the confines of electronic music. Ultimately, the music is the message, and both live and recorded Prison Religion feel both confrontational and holistic. It’s a sound that’s been taking hold of a lot of listeners. Releasing via prolific labels like UIQ and Halcyon Veil, their album Beachhead was named as one of The Wire’s best electronic albums of 2019. They’ve also received praise from outlets such as Pitchfork, VICE, and radio support from the likes of BBC 6Music and RinseFM. Prison Religion is excavating our excesses. There’s no utopia waiting for us, but with their neo-Socratic discourse and noise, Parker and Warren are offering up a catharsis so intense that it might just cleanse us, pushing us towards rebuilding something brighter and better.