Mice Parade Obrigado Saudade

[Bubble Core; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: mellow acoustic jam, electronica
Others: Tortoise, HiM, The Sea and Cake, Igloo

After taking some time to mull it over, I've decided that Adam Pierce's Mice Parade material is (more or less) Tortoise for those of us who prefer warmer, more inviting soundscapes. With some exception, a good deal of Tortoise's output seems intent on making the most antiseptic, unmoving music they can. It's almost as if they think pressing listener's buttons with tracks like "TNT," "Seneca," "Monica," and the rivetingly pulsing epic "Djed" is spoiling us. It almost seems like the group instinctively recognizes accessible (i.e. - hummable/headnodding/buttshaking) music as a sign of artistic weakness. Thank God this new Mice Parade record came along, because if the upcoming Tortoise release is a let down, I can always turn back to the cool, caressing arsenal of spring-loaded percussion and sweetly lulling, plucked melodies of Obrigado Saudade.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that this record is in any way dull. It just so happens that this is one of those Sam Prekop-caliber releases that serves to sooth but uses production in tantalizing ways. And Pierce's infectious, trance-like melodic progressions communicate more in the way of emotion than the frigidly jazzy Tortoise manage to in the course of an album. (In Tortoise's defense, though, there is nothing on Obrigado Saudade that can truly measure up to the fascinating, unique Standards.) When Pierce's guitar is isolated and looped for the couple minutes of "Here Today," you can see where the guy's creative drive comes from. With Mice Parade, the main preoccupation seems to be creating heavily textured, organically arranged numbers that can either suck you in or sooth your weary head, depending on your mood.

Highlights abound here. Despite what some reviewers have suggested, I believe the strongest tracks are the one's where Pierce sings. There are some decidedly provocative instrumentals (particularly the quietly intense "Milton Road"), but Mice Parade reaches new expressive peaks with the song "And Still it Sits in Front of You," which has a nicely loping beat matched with a melancholic coda that Pierce sells without straining his mid-range vocals. People have flat out said the guy can't sing, but I find this preposterous as the vocals on said song and elsewhere feel completely natural and appropriate to me.

All in all, this is the kind of underrated sleeper album like Helio Sequence's Young Effectuals that may never take off, but will always have an audience. If you enjoy the ear-perkingly dense textures of friendlier experimental stuff like Four Tet and Fridge's Happiness LP, then you can't go wrong here. I also forgot to add that one of the pixie-voiced crooners in Mum sings on a couple tracks. It's not so noticeable, but serves as the icing on an already resplendent cake. But it's cake of decidedly nutritious sort: it's tasty and doesn't leave you bloated with guilty pleasure. You certainly shouldn't miss out on this one.

1. Two Three Fall
2. Mystery Brethren
3. Focus on a Roller Coaster
4. And Still it Sits in Front of You
5. Wave Greeting
6. Here Today
7. Milton Road
8. Spain
9. Out of the Freedom World
10. Guitars for Plants
11. Refrain Tomorrow