Tropics Parodia Flare

[Planet Mu; 2011]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: ambient pop
Others: Niva, Miami Horror, Washed Out, the music video for David Morales’s “Needin’ U” but in slow-mo

One need only listen to the first two tracks off Parodia Flare to realize that Chris Ward, the sole musician behind Tropics, named his act so for a reason. “Navajo,” the first of the two, fades in unsuspectingly with shifting waves of digital haze and bubbling synths, reminiscent of dramatic guitar riffs and a woman’s moans, evoking either a laid-back afternoon vacationing at Miami Beach or drifting in a canoe on the river Amazon, surrounded by a humid, teeming rainforest (take your pick). At just over one minute long, the track feels like an elongated rush, ambient and drenched in atmosphere as it is. But it does provide a taste of what’s to come, as it quickly leads into Parodia Flare’s lead single — and one of its best tracks — “Mouves,” an early-90s-sounding ambient techno throwback-turned indie-rock pop song, complete with chilled-out vocals, bass-y guitar grooves, and an assortment of warm ambient sounds, all propelled by soft beats and an ever-persistent percussion. Parodia Flare, in other words, conjures up images and sensations of leisure, of warm weather, of well… the tropical.

Ward’s approach to the first two tracks are both echoed and varied upon throughout Parodia Flare. Nearly every song adheres to an arrangement wherein an elaborately layered sonic ambience is utilized to elicit feelings of peace and relaxation, to evoke an atmosphere of warmth and moisture and its associative imagery. Occasionally joined with soft, feather-light percussion, the background ambience cushions Ward’s pop-proned penchant for simple yet alluring guitar playing mixed with soft, mostly soothing vocals and synths. Yet for all of the aesthetic and conceptual uniformity — especially in the backdrops of the songs — there’s enough variety to keep things interesting. From the sleek, jazzy tones of “Going Back” and the sleepy, lethargic vibes on “Wear Out,” to the thick, saturated beats and bird-calls on “Celebrate” and the retro stylings of “Telassar,” Ward demonstrates that he is anything but at a loss for ideas while musically mining the essence(s) of his thematic subject(s).

That Ward succeeds so well in capturing something akin to escapism while keeping things engaging enough to bypass passivity is perhaps the album’s greatest strength. And it comes at a perfect time, too. With the summer having come and gone and the weather getting colder, we can count on Parodia Flare to whisk us away to a destination that’s not only more pleasurable, but also warmer.

Links: Tropics - Planet Mu

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