entle brush strokes on a snare drum and soft, lilting vocals are all well and good, but pure pleasantness is apt to fall into the category of being dangerously languorous. To overcome the pitfalls of being solely aurally pleasing, artists have had to become more imaginative, pushing boundaries and razing walls, something which is difficult in the increasingly hackneyed genre of post-rock.
Adam Pierce’s Mice Parade was largely a one-man affair until 2001’s Mokoondi, a record which not only found Pierce adding more world-music influences to his experimental electronica, but also found him playing with a full band which included Dylan Cristy (from The Dylan Group) and drummer Doug Scharin (from no less than five other post-rock bands). The full band would go on to record some live and BBC sessions which would be compiled on 2002’s All Roads Lead to Salzburg. Whereas Mokoondi dipped its toe in the waters of Eastern music, Obrigado Saudade does the same with South American sounds. Flittering melodies, sunny, bouncing guitar lines and brushed percussion give the record a spirited, yet blithe air to it. The appearance of vocals by Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir (one-half of the Múm twins) on the opening track “Two, Three, Fall” sets the mood for the majority of the record with its gently picked guitar and general sunny etherealness.
Obviously a creative man, Pierce suffers from a disease which ails many musical artists: an overabundance of inventiveness. “Here Today,” a moody experiment in noise and melody, while beautiful in its own right, only seems to disrupt the records general amiability. The same with “Guitars for Plants” with its ambient axe noodling, which works well as a singular piece, but taken with the whole of the record only seems to stray and distract from the path already beaten through previous tracks.
While most of the tracks were recorded by Pierce alone, those with guests stand out for their full, live sound. The epic, over-the-ten-minute-mark second track “Mystery Brethren” more than hints at what Pierce and co. is capable of. While the term “Tortiose-esque” would no doubt be used to describe the track, it differs in that it doesn’t stale throughout its long running time. I suppose we can also count the un-Tortoise-like noisy climax with staccato bleeps and fierce guitar strumming. With the requisite experimental epic done only two tracks into the record, and the catchy, bubbling single (with vocals from Pierce) “Focus on a Roller Coaster” over three tracks in, the latter 3/4s fail to make an indelible mark.
A warm, accessible listen, it’s hard to say anything too bad about Obrigado Saudade, which may be its biggest fault: it’s too clean, too comfortable. I’m sure live, Mice Parade is able to construct an incredible, much looser Chicago post-rock, jam oriented sound, but on record, the band ultimately fails to push hard enough.
Reviewed by: Gentry Boeckel
Reviewed on: 2004-01-16