Boston’s Pray for Sound began as a solo act in 2011. After releasing an EP, a single and a live set, the solo act has developed into a quintet. The name refers to frontman Bruce Malley’s struggle with hearing loss and subsequent surgery; he prays for sound not only to be heard, but to be heard clearly. And so it is no small coincidence that Pray for Sound’s debut album is sharply mastered by Nick Zampiello, who has also worked with Caspian and Pelican. The result is a an answered prayer.
The shift to a larger set of performers makes for a much larger sound. Throw in a couple extra players on three tracks and the stage becomes packed. These guests contribute violin, viola and light wordless vocals, adding nuance to an already complex equation.
As may be gleaned from the cover image, Dreamer is a concept album, with each track representing a different dream state or emotion. Each track is given a corresponding symbol as well. While it’s fun to play match-up, considering whether each track matches its subject matter, it’s easier to play the album as a whole, allowing its moods to flow over the listener in a single sequence. The opener, “Sleeper”, is a gentle selection that eases the listener into the album, setting the stage for the pyrotechnics to come. The Big Drums appear three minutes in like a morning alarm. We have been praying for sound, and cannot remain passive for long, although the gentle piano at the end is a reminder of the beginning.
Okay, now it’s time to rock. With a title like “Decayer” backed by the symbol of a skull, one knows the pace is about to pick up. The track begins with an all-out assault, only later allowing the complexities to sink in. It’s also the first track to showcase the mastering, as the speaker-to-speaker action develops in the “quieter” (but not quiet) section. The contrast because acoustic and electric is exquisite. By the end of the track, the smooth and harsh have come to a peaceful resolution; the rough edges have been smoothed, all sounds integrated in the service of a higher cause. This dance continues throughout the album, offering evidence of keen compositional minds. The same principle holds true for the set as a whole. The closing 1-2 punch of “Mourner” and “Day Bringer” brings the music full circle. Tender, yearning vocals provide a touch of euphoria, the hope of a new day. We’ve survived the night, and now the day awaits. (Richard Allen)