Mice Parade – Obrigado Saudade

Mice Parade
Obrigado Saudade

As proven in 2003 by Brokeback’s brilliant Looks at the Bird and HiM’s enlightening Many in High Places are Not Well, the positive progression of America’s premier post-rock operations has not come via ploughing further into abstract terrain but more from mining the infinite and universal power of melody. A process continued here on the latest long-player from Adam Pierce’s New York collective, Mice Parade. Although it would be silly to suggest that Obrigado Saudade is somehow the missing-link between Rubber Soul and Millions Now Living Will Never Die, it’s still fair to say that the best bits here come from keeping one foot planted firmly in the realm of robust song-like structures and one eye on the ever-changing musical horizon. Assembling a simpatico cast of musicians that includes Doug Scharin (June of 44, Directions In Music, HiM), Kristin Anna Valtysdottir (Múm, HiM), and Dylan Cristy (The Dylan Band), Pierce has sculpted a series of serene and sensuous treasures rich in texture and laden with rapturous instrumental hooks.
Kristin Anna’s crystalline vocals are again a revelation to anyone who has never had the good fortune to hear Múm’s Finally We are No One. Her whispery delivery lends a gracious presence to the Four Tet-like folktronic twists of “Two, Three, Fall” and to the winsome stripped-down acoustic strains of “Spain (Excerpt).” Elsewhere on the laid-back “Out of the Freedom World,” Doug Scharin’s jazzy drum patterns underpin some beautiful oriental guitar shimmering from previously unknown guest Chris Conti. The 11-minute groove-rhythm-ride that is “Mystery Brethren” brings in a seemingly obligatory Tortoise homage, but it’s done with such panoramic panache and cinematic flair that charges of lazy plagiarism would never stand up in court.
Although Pierce benefits from his guests’ warmth and presence, many of the best (and indeed most melodic) moments here come in the shape of near-solo recordings. The interwoven unplugged guitars, looped percussion and hazy vocals of “Focus on the Rollercoaster” suggest David Grubbs isn’t the only New York resident with his eye on the intellectual art-pop crown. The marvellous “Milton Road” is even better with its handclaps, gossamer guitar figures and balmy synth washes. Binding such acts of delight together is Pierce’s strong sense of focus that stops things drifting off into dead-end tangents.
It doesn’t all quite work out – “Guitars for Plants” is an unfinished ambient noodle, for instance – but generally speaking this is a record that richly deserves to do for its creator what the aforementioned Looks at the Bird did for Tortoise/Eleventh Dream Day bassman Doug McCombs. A carefully crafted triumph for tunes as well as experimentation.