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Record Reviews

Parades
Foreign Tapes

CHRIS JOHNSTON finds surprises, magic and mirage in the debut album from Sydney’s Parades.

So many surprises here and so many wonderful, bittersweet adventures to behold. Foreign Tapes is like a carnival, a fairground in lights. It’s one of those records where magic and mirage can come true like in the Flaming Lips and the music of Iceland: colours slip and fade and explode neon again, little soft bombs of sound gently burst. Great possibilities exist, a real sense of wonder runs through it. But great drama also waits.

Parades are from Sydney. Modular solo artist Jonathan Boulet – the toast of 2009 to many, yet Parades is not a Modular act – is the drummer. The core members went to a western suburbs’ Catholic high school together and formed the band in 2001, taking it through various incarnations. In 2004 they were known, presciently, as Brooklyn. They became Parades two years ago. They have recently started working with female singers Freya Berkhout and Alyx Dennison from the band kyü. They feature on one track here; the wondrous female voice on the rest of it is Bec Shave. Foreign Tapes is their debut album.

One of the (many) things I like about this is that it’s indeterminate. In so many ways it lies between. It’s certainly gender-less. Male and female voices rise and fall morphing into one another – the men often singing like women, the women singing like super-women. The noisescapes – the machine-drums locked in a grid, the feedback loops – are I suppose male but thematically the record is also gender-neutral, a mixture of tiny middleground observation (“Things are quiet now since you’re not around”, from ‘Vulturehood’) and big universal riddle (“All my life I’ve tried to see if this is how my life was meant to be”, from ‘Hunters’).

The indeterminate quality works in other places too. Foreign Tapes seems ageless. It’s innocent and joyful and so glad and willing to submit to dreams yet it’s not naive or childlike or annoying. The innocence doesn’t come across as a bunch of people trying to be clever. All these are strong qualities that Sigur Ros and M83 also have; that impression of them being in a place between gender and age, between observant and detached, between knowing and not caring. So many surprises though, and all in the way it actually sounds. Odd mirages become real … it’s like that. It’s an amazing record in that it has the capacity to amaze as well as the sense that it, itself, is amazed.

“Male and female voices rise and fall morphing into one another – the men often singing like women, the women singing like super-women.”

‘Hunters’ is a knockout; an art-rock song arranged in distinct sections like a club track. It has an opening of primitive percussion, rimshots and sticks – Boulet is a great drummer – and it also has long stretches of tension with no release; surges, swells and house music’s phantom rushes. It has a “breakdown” of piano-and-voice, a classic trope of even the most ancient acid house sketch. Two songs later in ‘Invaders’ the band consummate this relationship with club-track ideas and make a drum and bass lullaby full of filter and EQ and scattershot, man-made breakbeats but also gentle voice/response, male/female singing: “Do you question anything? Or do you just believe?”

‘Past Lives’ relies on a Brian Eno/David Byrne rhythm but it has a mandolin and a muted trumpet too and supercharged harmonies but mostly all the singers have to do is hum because the song just rests on itself and works so well. “Lung Full Of Light” is set underwater or so it seems – “Saw myself in the ocean, strange things appear all around me, a million flashing lights subdue me” – and the piano (always piano, there’s piano in every song) is Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert: meditative, repetitive, clear, alive.

One tiny section of ‘Loserspeak in New Tongue’ sounds like ‘I Am The Resurrection’ by The Stones Roses, by the way, if that centres things more – even though it’s gone before it’s even there. Similarly, a lot of the guitar parts are African, less African than Vampire Weekend, but not a whole lot less. ‘Springboarder’ is folktronica like Manitoba or Fourtet – florid, complex, hallucinogenic. As for ‘Marigold’, this is where it all comes together. Everything is synchronised. Boulet’s drum part is borrowed from Billy Squier's ‘Big Beat’; the guitar riff is short and sharp and tight as it needs to be; the horns (a huge squadron of them), like Hunters and Collectors at their most earnest, is a kind of rock’n’roll ANZAC spirit coming from several trumpets in unison. Girls and boys singing beautifully, something about shouting from the rooftops. Something about an exodus. Who knows what and why? Surprises, magic and mirage, coming true.

Staggering album, really. I can’t say it in any other way. ‘Dead Nationale’ is the opening track and blueprint for all this kind of ambition and articulate post-rock, art-rock, whatever you want to call it. The first words uttered by Parades in this song and therefore on Foreign Tapes are, “Oh my God, turn away”, with stuttering drums happening big and encompassing, Ethiopian guitar trinkets, little vibrant backwards pieces of things and fat-ass bass. In the song, the “people” – the wide-eyed ones; genderless, ageless, non-committal – are about to be seduced by a deity to whom they pledge weird honour. “Take from me all you want,” sings Timothy Jenkins, who also plays guitar in Parades. “I am ready to begin.”

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Foreign Tapes is out tomorrow (April 23) through Dot Dash/Remote Control.

  -   Published on Thursday, April 22 2010 by Chris Johnston.
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Your Comments

tinyman  said about 4 years ago:

Foreign Tapes is out tomorrow (April 23) through Dot Dash/Remote Control.

no it's not, i'd been listening to this for a few weeks now. bought it from HUM newtown.


gracenihil  said about 4 years ago:

Tinyman, I'm going to call the police and report HUM Newtown for breach of embargo. And Sydney will blame you when we have one less record store!


tinyman  said about 4 years ago:

did i say HUM? i meant Brashes Parramatta.


esquared  said about 4 years ago:

They became Parades two years ago, adding female singers Freya Berkhout and Alyx Dennison from the band kyü, a masterstroke given the pair’s amazing contributions here.

Pretty sure Freya and Alyx don't feature on the album. They only got added recently after Bec Shave left the band. And i think it's her vocals that are ''the pair's amazing contributions''.


esquared  said about 4 years ago:

Red Eye have been selling it for a few weeks too...


tinyman  said about 4 years ago:

and he meant HMV Macquarie.


josejones  said about 4 years ago:

no it's not, i'd been listening to this for a few weeks now. bought it from HUM newtown.

good for you, but its official release date is tomorrow.


Ash-showoff  said about 4 years ago:

Looking forward to hearing this LP.


dombro  said about 4 years ago:

Pretty sure Freya and Alyx don't feature on the album. They only got added recently after Bec Shave left the band. And i think it's her vocals that are ''the pair's amazing contributions''.

Yeah Bec sings on the whole album, except on 'Loserspeak In New Tongue' which features Alyx. Parades sound fantastic live with Freya and Alyx. I hope the kyu album sees the light of day soon.


chrisj  said about 4 years ago:

that is correct although 'loserspeak in new tongue' features both freya and alyx.

my mistake.

attempting to contact da boss to fix it now.


chrisj  said about 4 years ago:

fixed

thanks bosses


runoutgroove  said about 4 years ago:

i picked this up from red eye last week and reckon its pretty good.


ivans  said about 4 years ago:

Brian Eno/David Byrne rhythm? whats that, 4/4?

african guitar?

rubbish review, fantastic album. good work parades!


lawson  said about 4 years ago:

bloody brilliant review - you get a sense of the writer's incredulity at how amazing the record is that just makes you want to listen to it.


SpringRain  said about 4 years ago:

just from listening to their myspace, i can clearly hear highlife and some palm wine influences. i don't think that's an irrelevant point to make in the review. and i think the rhythm comment refers to more than the time signature. boring music in any event. they should be more offensive like circle pit



mathieson  said about 4 years ago:

Plainly a pretty impressive record.

Do they pull it off live?


tinyman  said about 4 years ago:

to me, yes, they sounded pretty good live.


chrisj  said about 4 years ago:

see you at the east brunny at june then


ChapterMusic  said about 4 years ago:

Parades playing this Saturday at OAF with Crayon Fields and Step-Panther.


nyx  said about 4 years ago:

Is this a good band? Would this be a good band for me to go to without ever having heard them before? It seems like it would be.


filterfeed  said about 4 years ago:

they are playing with belles will ring so i reckon yeah. might go along myself.


nyx  said about 4 years ago:

cool. Maybe we can nod at each other from afar while we are appreciating the musics.


filterfeed  said about 4 years ago:

if i can see you from behind my overly long fringe.


nyx  said about 4 years ago:

If I can see you from my overly long fringe too.


Reubajam  said about 4 years ago:

I feel sick reading this review


black wasp!  said about 4 years ago:

I saw them this weekend having not heard the record. Decided they seemed interesting so I took a punt and shelled out for the album. I figured they were like a slightly more polished, radio ready, direct cousin of bands like Megastick Fanfare.

Parades are from Sydney.

Unshakably Sydney-sounding, too. The album is really, really polished and clean and poppy sounding. I couldn't really listen to it. Musically, they seemed much more interesting when I was watching them playing on stage - go figure. The vocals really don't do it for me. They're too earnest and American College Rock, sort of like the parts I don't like about Ben Gibbard, or the guy from Q And Not U. The sound of it really speaks to the distinctive character of the Sydney music scene compared to everywhere else in Australia.

In the song, the “people” – the wide-eyed ones; genderless, ageless, non-committal – are about to be seduced by a deity to whom they pledge weird honour.

Weirdly, when I read this (and the part about them having met at Catholic high school), I was instantly reminded of the whole Hillsong alterna-rock sound. That vague, sweeping reverential mood. The true ambiguity of 'meaningful' lyrics sung with longing. The record's nods toward things like 'folktronica' or 'drum'n'bass' feel pretty sterile to me. I like the loops that pop in and out throughout most of the songs, but they're too ubiqitous, robbed of their power (ironically) by pure repetition. I don't know - they seem like really nice kids, very young, sweet and well-intentioned. This album is just really not for me. But it did raise some interesting questions when I listened to it.


tinyman  said about 4 years ago:

catholic kids can rock just as hard as anyone else.


shaun  said about 4 years ago:

Weirdly, when I read this (and the part about them having met at Catholic high school), I was instantly reminded of the whole Hillsong alterna-rock sound. That vague, sweeping reverential mood. The true ambiguity of 'meaningful' lyrics sung with longing. The record's nods toward things like 'folktronica' or 'drum'n'bass' feel pretty sterile to me.

Wow, this is almost exactly how I felt upon listening to this (an hour or so ago). Good post.

I'm not sure why they sound unshakably Sydney, though. I know what you're getting at - the groups that sound blatantly geared towards 'making it', Cloud Control, Sparkadia, that whole pristine bunch - but there are only a handful of those. Do you think it's because these Sydney groups fail to convey that they really couldn't care less about success, which is a vital pose for indie pop groups aiming for authenticity?


mathieson  said about 4 years ago:

Or are they post-indie, in that they haven't been grounded in the aesthetic, both sonic and attitude-wise?


shaun  said about 4 years ago:

That's a good way of describing it.

Maybe these bands take their cues from groups that have transcended indie, like the Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear. In a lot of their press-shots AC and GB are dressed in semi-formal clothing, looking very serious, very much above the humility of ye olde indie. Similarly, look at the series of shots posted here of Cloud Control recently at the Annandale, or Deep Sea Arcade.

But whereas bands like Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear evolve into those types of groups, others like Parades try to start there. The pretence towards humility is never there. That pisses some people off.


mathieson  said about 4 years ago:

Age and geography may also be a factor in the case of Cloud Control and Parades - Blue Mountains and Castle Hill respectively? They're outside the pockets of indie imprinting: Newtown, Darlinghurst, etc.

Perhaps that's why they have an attitude at the beginning that Arcade Fire grew into. That's all they've known. Parades were probably in Yr 12 when Neon Bible came out, let alone Funeral.


shaun  said about 4 years ago:

True. Though Cloud Control have been playing Sydney regularly for at least four years now.

I still wonder about the 'unshakably Sydney' comment though, and if it's true, why does it happen here more frequently than elsewhere.


TransientRandom  said about 4 years ago:

''Hills Bands'' ''Mountains Bands''. Live above sea level and cop an indelible tag from the music press!

I'm scratching my head very hard about that ''Unshakeably Sydney'' comment.

I'm pretty sure most, if not all members of these bands have had a good deal of structured training in music. I think it shows in both bands' songwriting/structure/composition, and seems to me a bit more relevant than who lives up a hill and who doesn't!

''Outside the pockets of Indie imprinting''? Come on. It's not like 14 year olds in Newtown are forced to stand in the snow with no shoes on listening to the Ramones, and those ''imprinted'' in Darlinghurst would surely be more liable to develop a taste for the electro pop hits of the 80s and 90s, and the Minogue sisters, if you know what I'm getting at.


untold/animals  said about 4 years ago:

In a lot of their press-shots AC and GB are dressed in semi-formal clothing, looking very serious, very much above the humility of ye olde indie.

Teehee. AC. Animal Collective in semi-formals.


mathieson  said about 4 years ago:

It's more 19 than 14, TR. Environment is a huge influence, and that's what a scene is generally - a representation of geography. Put a lot of bands in proximity - rehearsal rooms, socialising, gigs - and there's certain examples of groupthink/reflection. Some of the more (to me) inetresting Sydney bands seem to have developed outside that.

One of the thing I like about the Parades record is how the sense of identity continually changes - different vocalists, different voices, different narratives. It's fluid. That may tie into this as well.


TransientRandom  said about 4 years ago:

No, of course. But there's so much more freedom when you're 19. It's probably the point in time when you're least tied to your geographical roots, I would have thought, starting uni etc and all that kind of business.


mathieson  said about 4 years ago:

In regards to ''unshakably Sydney'' I can udnerstand that, but I can't necessarily say why. Put it this way: if I'd heard Parades and then been told they were a Melbourne band I would have been flabbergasted (and that's not a judgment on either city).


shaun  said about 4 years ago:

In regards to ''unshakably Sydney'' I can udnerstand that, but I can't necessarily say why.

Exactly. It's frustrating that we can't explain this but I guess it's just one of those things.

Similarly I'd be surprised if Love of Diagrams turned out to be a Sydney band, or ECSR.


montyclift  said about 4 years ago:

there is certainly a breed of 'sydney band' with their eyes on the prize - even if the prize is just a clothing deal with vans - and certainly cloud control, sparkadia, et al, are in that. parades - and even boulet (even allowing he's signed to modular) - seem a bit separate to that.

and surely there's melbourne (or perth, or brisbane, or auckland) bands who have the same careerist ethic?


Jazzy  said about 4 years ago:

I enjoyed their show at the red rattler, it was a new experience for me.


black wasp!  said about 4 years ago:

If I'm honest about it, it's because I don't think it has a lot of edge. It reminds me of a lot of music from LA (okay - that's bound to be too gross a generalisation - it's a huge city - but I think many people would get my point). It has a certain sheen. It sounds like 'lots is happening' and there's a lot of 'energy'.

In fact, LA may not be such a bad parallel. Like the So-Cal sound, the singing features a lot of emotively held notes and dramatically voiced phrases. There's a lot of compression on the drums and guitars, giving them 'kick' and 'shine'. It has a peppy vibe, and an enthusiastic grip on the songwriters' ideas that is more veiled elsewhere. And there's a seemingly less self-conscious starry-eyed quality to it all compared to what you'd expect from a similar band out of Melbourne, Montréal or Munich.

That's what I mean, I guess. The music has a distant quality, and generally entertains certain stylistic motifs that bands from places like Melbourne perhaps wouldn't. I don't know - this isn't meant to be some kind of scathing appraisal of Sydney and its distinctive musical markers, and it's not to say I don't like some of the above. But these are the factors that made me remark upon Parades' origin.


SpringRain  said about 4 years ago:

i tried explaining the sydney thing once, but all i could come up with was 'overly serious' and 'post rock'. haha... i don't like that many sydney bands really. but apparently the jazz scene is great, and i didn't really explore that. i would like to do that at some point


black wasp!  said about 4 years ago:

and surely there's melbourne (or perth, or brisbane, or auckland) bands who have the same careerist ethic?

Absolutely there are! And I would say that Brisbane has its own dominant characteristics, and probably Auckland too (though from everything I've seen, Auckland is probably the most personality-lacking city, musically, in New Zealand). Perth is a different place altogether, and probably has the second most 'careerist' indie scene after Sydney. But to me it's more about the sound. The difference is that in Melbourne, a band like Parades wouldn't necessarily belong in the same sphere it inhabits in Sydney. There aren't really trendy, moneyed labels like Modular in Melbourne anyway, and it's organisations like that which help to create an audience (through events, clubs, venue culture) that's amenable to certain styles of band/music.


TransientRandom  said about 4 years ago:

To, ahem, paraphrase another thread, Playing for FREE tonight at the Beach Rd Hotel, Bondi, with THE LAURELS and RUSHCUTTER.

Come on down!

Ctrl + C has halved my advertising expenditure!


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Tracklisting
  • 1.   Dead Nationale
  • 2.   Hunters
  • 3.   Past Lives
  • 4.   Invaders
  • 5.   Springboard
  • 6.   Lung Full Of Light
  • 7.   Loserspeak In New Tongue
  • 8.   Tripping Over Your Eyes
  • 9.   Marigold
  • 10.   Vulturehood
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