Parlour – Octopus Off-Broadway

Octopus Off-Broadway

It was March of 2001 and I was eagerly anticipating the Mogwai show at the Metro in Chicago. I had always heard wonderful things about their live performance and needless to say they ended up putting on an amazing show. But I’ll save that story for another point in time. Before starting out on the almost two-hour drive from Milwaukee to downtown Chicago I pondered to myself what opening acts might I be shamefully subjected to before our superheroes of indie rock, Mogwai, grace us with their presence. It turned out that Aurore Rien (one of my favorite bands and also some of my good friends) was one of the two opening acts for the show. The other was a relatively unknown band, Parlour.
Parlour was to play right after Aurore Rien, and in the back of my head I wished they would not have played at all (mainly because I was so anxious to see Mogwai). The thing that really stood out about Parlour more than anything else was the fact that they used a large projection screen with complex shapes that would move accordingly to their music. I would later come to find out later this projection was referred to as “Tigital” and was done Jamie Tittle (Parlour’s honorary fourth member). The effect is very similar to the Windows Media Player application used for playing mp3s and CDs on computers. Anyway, the music was interesting but certainly not overly exciting and jaw-dropping. This brings me to the main point of why I decided to rehash this story for the review. Upon listening to Parlour’s Octopus Off-Broadway CD, I wish I would have given them much more attention to their live performance because it is without a doubt an absolutely incredible release.
Parlour is the brainchild of Tim Furnish, who has certainly paid his dues to indie rock in the For Carnation, Aerial M, and Cerebellum. Parlour’s music is innovative, well thought-out, and hypnotically beautiful. It puts the listener into a whole new world, one in which everything around them becomes much more beautiful and entrancing. What makes Parlour unique is that they’ve managed to put a new twist or spin on traditional krautrock, making it much more palatable by infusing melodic guitar into the mix. Their music is complex yet at the same time easy to grasp upon the very first listen. Each concurrent listen finds the listener uncovering new melodies that were somehow hidden in all of the beauty. At times, it feels like staring at a beautiful sunset a warm summer’s day. The music becomes so powerful and captivating one feels its almost overwhelming, leading many times to sensory overload. Parlour’s music is blissful and quite intriguing. However one should be cautious because continued listenings can induce a trance-like state.
“Stipendlax” start out with a wonderfully entrancing synth motif. The guitar is used very effectively to reinforce the melody of the synth by playing a few key notes repeatedly. It is this repetition that is so powerful because every time it’s played little extra notes are thrown in to capture the listener’s attention. The rhythm section is strong with bassist Connor Bell repeating the same entrancing bass line over and over while Todd Hancock keeps a steady and sturdy beat with the occasional fills. When I saw them live he was very much robotic and mechanical in his precise movements around his drum set. As I mentioned before, it’s quite necessary to listen to the tracks over and over again so that you can hear all of the details and intricacies of the music since so much is going on all at the same time. I would also suggest listening to the disc with headphones or while driving. It certainly makes everything around you much more interesting to look at.
“Aflipperput” begins with a synthesized flute repeating over and over while the steady rhythm team takes over from there. Eventually other synthesized instruments such as a trumpet come into the mix. The solid rhythm helps significantly by using minimalist qualities and not distracting the listener with excess material since so much is going on already. However, both know when to add the occasional extra part to keep the listener interested and paying attention. The use of unconventional instruments are synthesized and become more rhythmic oriented by pounding the same notes into your head over and over.
“This Time” is a wonderful track that begins with a few synthesized instruments playing overlapping meandering parts. The bass enters and becomes incredibly warm by playing a simplistic yet varied bass lines over and over. Tim Furnish’s sparkling guitar part really adds a substantial amount to the melody. It is amazingly catchy and yet a very interesting part that demands the listener’s attention. I really like how the synth at times models his melodic line and at other times becomes its distinct melody. “Mperfect” is a catchy little gem with Furnish’s guitar part starting out the song. Eventually the listener is overwhelmed with synths that start out quietly and increase their dynamics to combine with the guitar line forming a wonderful melody. “Sleeper” is a quieter, more introspective song that gradually becomes more interesting. At one point the synth has almost a comical motif which sounds out of place but eventually finds it’s way back into the song when strings are added. There isn’t any drums or bass added, but the song still flows quite nicely. “Weeds that Grow into Trees” starts off with a lot of melodic synthesized noise and gradually becomes a steady rhythmic flowing song, although a slower number.
My favorite track on the album is “The Living Beginning.” A synthesized melody starts out with another minimalist bassline. Furnish’s clean guitar (lacking reverb and any effects) enters into the mix and plays an extremely catchy motif that continues to grow on me every time I listen to the song. The other instruments, mostly consisting of synths, add a nice ethereal and atmospheric layer to the song. They progress and add a wonderful countermelody to Furnish’s guitar line. The rhythm section is also in full effect pounding a solid and steady beat.
As I think back in retrospect about Parlour’s show, I kick myself for not giving them more attention. Through listening to their new CD, I understand why they didn’t make the most favorable impression on me at first. Parlour’s music is complex and requires many listens to fully understand and hear the intricate melodies they’re constructing. However, once you see exactly what they’re building up to, you cannot help but be amazed at how beautiful and truly addictive it is. Octopus Off-Broadway is one of the stronger releases I’ve come across this year. Because they’re relatively obscure, I fear that they might not get the attention they deserve. Hopefully being associated with Temporary Residence’s host of other amazingly talented artists will turn on new fans to Parlour’s brilliantly hypnotic masterpieces. They’ve certainly won me over.