In Mice Parade's tenth studio album, Candela
, frontman/percussionist/ethnomusicologist Adam Pierce presents us with a feast for the ears, borrowing flavors and spices from all over the world, and presenting them through the filter of his own crazy brand of shoegaze grunge. The album is named for a Flamenco bar in Madrid, which should give a hint at the "world music" focus: the title track is a short, bittersweet travel story punctuated by Flamenco singer Gisele Saad Assi, Japanese singer/songwriter Caroline Lufkin lends her wispy but syrup-smooth vocals to multiple songs, and you can expect to hear samba rhythm, Latin trumpet, Eastern harmonic scales, and plenty of distorted electric guitar along this musical journey.
"Listen Here Glide Dear" gives the album a deceptively uneventful start, with smoky guitar and ominous bass drum underscoring Pierce's stripped vocals, but "Currents" quickly picks up the pace with madly punctuating drums, a swaying wall of distorted guitar, and Lufkin's childlike warble sailing through the storm of sound. Mice Parade bares their affinity for frequent rhythm change with unexpected transitions over the course of the record, and we get our first taste here. "This River Has A Tide" jumps into a noncommittal melody that's hushed by a gentle bridge sung by Lufkin, then explodes into a sunburst of climbing guitar sparkle and reverberating piano. Pierce seems to relish in the contrast of feather-light and avalanche-heavy soundscapes, with the two crashing around together all over Candela
. "Pretending" is another vocal conversation between Pierce and Lufkin, this time showcasing some pop genius with a gently haunting melody, Weezer-like chord progressions and a swirling craze of an instrumental break. It's a sound that newcomers - and fans of My Bloody Valentine - will love.
"The Chill House" is a lovely meditation of eastern-influenced banjo picking, ticking beats, and woolly background noises, and though the transition to the vocal line is awkward, the song smooths out again once the thematic arpeggios return and transform into something more Appalachian. "Candela" is a short and sweet centerpiece to the record, and may serve as a kind of personal mission statement. Pierce expresses the feeling of being lost in transit, only to be found again in the music of a foreign country: "Nowhere is it louder than Candela, where each tile on the floor tells a tale/Where I can still feel your breath against my face, where I can still hear the gypsy band's wail."
"Look See Dream Me" shows some production weaknesses, starting with a lounge beat and a synth line that sounds like "Big Papa," before becoming completely overwhelmed by abrupt and disorienting switchbacks. Mice Parade walks a fine line between balanced melange and chaotic collage, and the tip of the scales usually has to do with awkward rhythmic changes. By the end of the song, though, Pierce has settled on a rhythm, and the ringing flurry of guitars is heavenly. The rest of the album continues to juggle buzzy jam-band rock and exotic twists, the standout being the closing track, "Warm Hand In Narnia." It's a reminder that Pierce is surprisingly good at writing an understated love song in the tradition of Yo La Tengo's "Andelucia" (albeit with less lyrical subtlety), singing, "I know about your birthmarks/And I know about your worst parts." A wavering synth organ gives way to heavy guitars that end the album on a surprisingly vanilla note. It's okay though; it's like coming home.
On this short trip to Madrid and back again, Mice Parade does their best work when they're melodically focused. Their ambitious layering almost never feels overcrowded, but a manic approach to rhythm can sometimes take away from the careful blending. If you're a shoegazer with a case of wanderlust, Candela
may be a good place to start your travels.
Check out the haunting video for "This River Has A Tide":
is out January 29th on Fat Cat Records