Mice Parade, the musical and literal anagram of musicologist Adam Pierce has, for over a decade, been one of the only genuine Western creators of ‘world music’. Pierce takes styles from all over the world and re-appropriates them to sound like Mice Parade and Mice Parade alone. It’s like a pick'n'mix where Pierce reaches into each variety, chews them all compulsively in one go, then spits them out into a globular, rainbow coloured, sweetened series of dreamscapes.
This is not the ‘shanty guitars’ of Brooklyn indie fops; this is vast, genuine and meaningful, beyond the process of reinventing naff sounds into cool ones once cultural distance allows. This is music as study and reflection. It’s beautiful. And it’s not as though Pierce hasn’t been prolific, for ‘Candela’ is his ninth album, and that’s if you don’t count his albums as a member of the Swirlies and the Dylan Group.
So how is Candela different from past releases? It’s a softer sounding album for sure, a reflection from someone unafraid to start considering the silver years. There’s an irony that the track that rages the loudest, ‘This River Has A Tide’, is the track that looks deepest at mortality with Pierce stating: “Never mind what you know/It’s only what you believe in/As the grey hairs start to show/Never mind where you go/It’s the demons you’re keeping.” He delivers it as a lullaby atop guitars that resonate with the shoegaze of his earliest output, the beautiful fuzz that was ‘The True Meaning of Boodleybaye.’ The track is spliced by the sharp-sweet vocals of Caroline Lufkin, just so you don’t think Pierce is becoming macabre or complacent.
This is also probably the Mice Parade album that interjects into itself the most. It feels a little impatient. Songs aren’t built to flow and ebb but instead quickly establish motifs before Pierce provides a payoff in surprisingly inserting a different style. It’s accomplished consummately and smoothly as can be done but he hardly makes small adjustments, he truly throws in stylistic tangent… gloriously.
Named after a bar in Madrid, Candela indicates that if there is a thread, it’s the plastic top three strings of a classical guitar and the Flamenco that lives through this record. It’s the chain, as when guitar solos aren’t being strangled out with the blaze of Latin American prog rock they’re rippling with the soft churl of rapid, delicate arpeggios. ‘Currents’ does both, it rocks and lilts under Lufkin’s Scandinavian vocal tone.
There’s curve balls too, ‘Look Sea Dream Me’ pitch bends through keyboard lines with the swagger of Nineties gangster rap, a middle eight from a track off ‘G Funk Era’ before softly launching guitar lines that flutter upward and upward. Similarly ‘Gente Interesante’ thumps out with staggered, sternly plucked guitar lines that almost trouble funk through the verses before the vibrato of Spanish trumpet and opened ride cymbals power in to switch the mood immediately and immensely.
As an album Candela has everything: it's energetic and adventurous but these adjectives are synonymous with Mice Parade’s constant journeying through music. Some might be frustrated with its fidgety nature but many should find an immensely satisfying listen and one that never fails to also pack superb melodies. The chorus harmonies of ‘Contessa’ float sublimely. They’re at ease and peaceful and as they refrain “Take it in/Let the rest of your life begin/Because it’s not going anywhere/Oh Contessa” over an organ piano you realise that Pierce is merely punctuating his gentle tide through life with bobbles of delicate, delicious joy. This album can play and play and play.
9Jon Falcone's Score