The words Mice Parade are an anagram for Adam Pierce, the name of the long-running project’s mingled conductor. Much like rearranging the letters in his name to create a new one, Pierce has been shuffling around multi-cultural instrumentation for 15 years under the Mice Parade banner, with a revolving cast of cohorts. On Candela, a name taken from a bar in Madrid known to be a flamenco guitar players’ Mecca, Pierce’s ability to parse elements from across the globe and seamlessly meld them in with his own experimental instincts shines bright.
At first glance, Candela is as messy as you’d expect a flamenco-inspired art rock record might be. Percussion-based Krautrock (“Currents”) brushes against piano led flamenco and salsa (“Candela”, “Los Gentes Interesantes”), before drifting into Boards of Canada’s bedroom electronica (“Look See Dream Me”), and exploding into My Bloody Valentine’s fuzz (“Warm Hand in Narnia”). Each song also has a strangely appropriate Latin undercurrent that feels less like imitation and more like subtle allusion. Opener “Listen Hear Glide Door”, for instance, sounds like a shoegaze take on bandito theme music.
On first listen, the record comes across as a portfolio study, not a fluid musical expression. Songs split lead vocals between Pierce and former mÃºm frontwoman KristÃn Anna ValtÃ½sdóttir (Kria Brekkan) as if it was written in different frames of mind, with individual instrumentation complementing each accompanying singer, but tempting to fragment the record’s overall flow. Pierce isn’t particularly adroit as a vocalist, either, which, at first, paints some of these tracks as mere experiments or bedroom throwaways.
But once Candela has time to breathe, these gripes grow a tad innocuous. There are a lot of ideas circling around Candela, and it’s kind of the point. These songs are as rich with precision and vision as they are confused. They converse with one another, like the muddled thoughts that accompany the uncertainty of faltering love. We chase ValtÃ½sdóttir’s eerie whisper through distant lands, while Pierce’s unassuming vocals help root these geographically diverse songs into the American indie rock landscape, allowing the songs to take on nostalgic qualities–the distinct feeling of remembering a love-torn trip abroad for all its strange occurrences and moments of beauty.
Candela reveals itself as a break-up/make-up record infatuated with a relationship tested by the bounds of geography and fear. We find ourselves seeped in the sorrow of a Madrid bar, riding a trains to meet a lover, and, ultimately, walking forward, hand-in-hand. Despite its flaws, it can at times be an unexpected and stunning trip.
Essential Tracks: “Currents”, “Look See Dream Me”