Kick back and let Prize Horse bury you Under Sound with a rocking, robust, and charming full-length record that sees the three-piece saddle up to continue their budding journey onwards and upwards.

Release date: February 16, 2024 | New Morality Zine | Instagram | Bandcamp

Who doesn’t enjoy new music to fawn over? Problem is, sometimes you’re in short supply of time and/or opportunity to fully ingest the varied wealth of music we cover at Everything Is Noise. If so, you can rest assured that the Weekly Recs are a surefire means by which to either a) carefully study the week’s curated ‘specials’ menu or b) simply thrust your hand in and pluck out something freshly released that’s been deemed ear-catching in one way or another. The latter method is how I came across Prize Horse and they’ve certainly proven to be time and attention well spent.

Under Sound is the trio’s first full-length record, closing a two-year wait since the Welder EP kicked off their journey in early 2022. Hailing from Minneapolis, the musical potency that besieges our ears comes courtesy of Jake Beitel handling guitar and vocals, bellowing bass from Olivia Johnson, all tied up thanks to standout work behind the kit from final yet equally crucial cog Jon Brenner. The resulting melting pot of alt-rock grunge with a gazey twist was instantly engaging, thrusting me into thickened tunes that are just as reliant on tuneful delivery as they are lashings of fuzz-addled distortion.

“Dark Options” feels conjured from the shadows of an alleyway, walking home after a regrettable evening. It opens over clean guitar and an electronic beat, building anticipation without ever fully releasing. Organic drums and the low-end thrum of Johnson’s bass step in shortly after, but the intensity never truly spills over, remaining close to the band’s chest – for the time being. “Your Time” soon puts pay to that, however, disrupting the dismay with a perceptible punch once it hits its stride that grabs you by the scruff of the neck, playing its dissonance off of the more understated nature of the vocals.

Under Sound’s first half is generally characterised by a murky cleanliness. Beitel’s flickering vocal delivery is spun out over ringing riffs that call to mind the celestial, pondering paths trodden by the likes of Cloakroom. In some cases these meandering, sombre songs rise to moderate crescendos – the title track and “Leave It” serving as fine examples. Elsewhere, that pent-up energy is kept reined in – just – with a sense of composure and suppression, mimicking the efforts of someone who craves outburst yet lacks opportunity. This is to the merit of Prize Horse, because unleashing full fury infrequently somehow lends Under Sound a weightier tone, amplifying the moments and means by which any force comes to the foreground. It’s an act of balance: amidst the melodic vocals and conscientious drum work, the guitar’s textures and the timbre of the bass anchor the sound in an impressive trench of grungy gloom that feels more subterranean and than many of a similar style. It enhances the distorted moments and adds gnarly depth to otherwise ethereally grounded compositions.

It’s also worth mentioning that much of Prize Horse‘s appeal for me lies in some ominous, unconventional songwriting choices in the clean passages. It’s a simple aspect, but when a riff doesn’t take the direction you expect it to (such as partway into “Further From My Start”) it keeps you hooked in; you’re a captive listener even as the stretched, increasingly disembodied lines of finale track “Awake For It” peter out. Rest assured, though, when the horse does bolt from the stable, it hits like… well, exactly like you’d expect a kick in the teeth from a steel horseshoe to feel.

More boisterous moments are easier to come by in the second half of Under Sound, as though a seismic shift has occurred and that same restraint shown before is now struggling to hold. Stylistically, “Reload” plays out the near-inverse to its predecessors, opening up with force and only dialling back a notch when it knows it has our attention. Then there’s the rambunctious run of “Rev” with its scattered, shimmering strums – another slice of pleasantly powerful physicality. That’s when it’s time to truly hang onto the reins: gain levels rise and the full force of “Stone” spits grit into your face. Admittedly, you’re spared fleeting moments in which to pick the grunge-laden flecks of rock from your vision, but “Know Better” soon makes it apparent that it’s not time to quit just yet, barely letting up for its duration before the album settles, ending in similar sonic fashion to its beginning.

Prize Horse seem to embody their moniker with Under Sound, showing all the traits that would rightly garner attention and success. Their debut full-length is a vivacious display that belies their relatively fresh-faced stature within the music world thanks to a tremendous sound that hits hard in the right places at the right times. Definitely one to put your money on.

Artist photo: Adam Udenberg

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