You may twitch at the Prinzhorn Dance School. You may lurch at the Prinzhorn Dance School. You may plod, stomp or crawl at the Prinzhorn Dance School, but you sure as hell don’t dance. By means of brooding over time, your body may force out an involuntary tic, but this music is anything but conducive to hedonistic, rhythmic movement. Though it’s certainly not for pretension; this duo plays an abrasive and bizarre clang, isolated and bare, all stylization absent in favor of something simple and direct. That said, their stripped-down post-punk weirdness is quite intriguing.
Named for the two principal members in the band, Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn, Prinzhorn Dance School swiftly plucks at taut guitar and bass strings and deftly thuds on bass drums, snares and hi-hats, with more respect for empty space than most bands even have tolerance for. It’s hard to imagine this sort of thing being affiliated with premier NYC hipster disco imprint DFA, with nary a house beat in sight. Rather, opener “Black Bunker” sounds more like a Kills song stripped to two, barely-there notes, bluesy and extremely raw.
“Do You Know Your Butcher” seems to contain even less, if that’s possible, a one-note bassline plodding steadily and slowly beneath the occasional ring of a guitar string. With “Worker,” the duo begins to morph into a beast similar to The Fall, Prinz’s nasal chants reminiscent of a less frantic Mark E. Smith. On “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” Prinzhorn Dance School approaches something near catchy, its repetitive jangle revealing an immediate melody that warrants at least a hop here and there, if not any sort of gyration. But, wait, “You Are the Space Invader” actually has a groove, and it appears I’ve judged this band a bit too hastily. Still quite sparse, “Invader” could upgrade those tics to full-blown shakes and swings quite naturally. These moments of fun and frenzy are few and far between, though their presence does break up the plodding basslines and steady bass drum stomps.
How the Prinzhorn Dance School came to be erected amidst the LCD Soundsystem and Rapture is something of a mystery. Yet its presence is even more stunning given such a drastically different sound. When Prinz and Horn are capable of turning a song into dance fodder, it’s still far from James Murphy’s cowbell beats. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sound pretty cool.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.