Mice Parade: Bem-Vinda Vontade (2005)

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Mice Parade: Bem-Vinda Vontade
New York musician Adam Pierce is Mice Parade—note the anagrammatic qualities of the names—but he's come a long time since he played every instrument on Mice Parade's 1998 debut The True Meaning of Boodleybaye. Pierce still plays the lion's share of instruments on the new Bem-Vinda Vontade, but he's supplemented by a host of other players like keyboardist Rob King and vibes player Dylan Cristy (with whom Pierce plays in the Dylan Group). This has been a continuing trend with each of Mice Parade's successive albums, and what was once a largely laptop-fueled live phenomenon has become a band.

Mice Parade records are often found in the electronica section of record stores, and listening to Pierce's recordings certainly gives an impression of artificial, electronic music: complex hip-hop and drum 'n bass drum patterns, textured keyboard loops, and musical layering in place of harmonic progression. Yet these elements are created by real instruments in real time, and the overall effect is organic and warm. In this respect, Pierce has created his own genre: call it fauxtronica.

Bem-Vinda Vontade continues the trend of its 2002 predecessor Obrigado Saudade towards gorgeous, shimmering pop. Obrigado Saudade introduced vocals to the mix and now Pierce goes farther in that direction: all the songs but one have vocals by Pierce, Kristin Anna Valtýsdóttir (from the Icelandic group múm), and other guests. Gone, too, are the extended musical structures and group improvisations of Mokoondi (2001)—an album that, when I first heard it, made me exclaim aloud, "this is a jazz group! Well, it's not jazz—but it is jazzy, in a Tortoise, post-rock way. Whether it is Pierce singing (in his mildly nasal, conversational voice, which tends to drop into a song like an unglamorous but intimate neighbor) or Valtýsdóttir (whose childlike quaver makes Björk sound as brash as Ethel Merman in comparison), the vocals feel like another layer of a song—not like the song's core.

"Nights Wave features hard-strummed, nylon-stringed acoustic guitars, vocals from Pierce and Valtýsdóttir, some tasty, panned electric guitar, a touch of accordion—it's perhaps beside the point to single out the individual elements, because this is layered studio music. "Waterslide exemplifies the Mice Parade sound (on this CD anyway) with its repeated, tingling synth figure and that signature drum 'n bass drumming skittering beneath acoustic guitars. There's a slightly self-conscious, flamenco feel here (actually, throughout the album) and a typical blurring of instrumental boundaries: is that a Hohner? An electric guitar? "Passing & Galloping goes the farthest into pure alt-rock, with My Bloody Valentine-ish electric guitar and hyperactive, effected drums that sound like an electronic ghost trace of Keith Moon.

Pierce tends to make each CD different enough from its predecessor that judging the relative quality of each release is largely a matter of taste. I prefer the stretched-out, improvised quality of Mokoondi over this one; I'm coming from jazz. But this is otherworldly, fascinating pop—just in time for summer.

Track Listing: 1. Warm Hand in Farmland 2. Nights Wave 3. Passing & Galloping 4. The Days Before Fiction 5. Steady As She Goes 6. Waterslide 7. The Boat Room 8. Ground as Cold as Common 9. Ende

Personnel: Adam Pierce: guitars, drums, keyboards, vocal, percussion, cajon, gamelan, dulcimer, bass; Brandon Knights: realtime fx-analog (#4); Dan Lippel: guitar (#1, 8); Doc Laakio: guitar (#5); Doro Tachler: synth, vocal (#4); Doug Scharin: drums (#2,4), realtime fx-digital (#4); Dylan Cristy: vibes (#2,4,7); Ikuko Harada: vocal (#8); Josh Larue: guitar (#2); Kristin Anna Valtsdttir: vocals (#2,7); Marc Wolf: guitar (#2); Rob King: keyboards (#2,4,6)

Record Label: Bubble Core

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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