A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Here we have a lovely limited edition cassette object from Portland’s Parlous. He got in touch via a mutual adoration for Tobacco and Moon Wiring Club, and was kind enough to send me a copy of this luxurious tape, complete with ornate scrolled logy to. I also had the unique opportunity to meet Parlous in person, as we live in the same city. He had an extra ticket to see Com Truise at Rotture, and i had a chance to meet the man behind the music, as we bonded over gear, songwriting, and old horror movies.
Parlous’ debut outing is a poignantly short EP of retroactive electronics, equally inspired by early ’80s soundtracks, as well as their recreationists. Blurred melodies meet growling basslines, as haunting arpeggiators enter a world of echoes, to evoke a feeling of subterranean and underwater worlds, as dawn breaks over some glittering city skyline. On all 5 tracks, there is a feeling of ADVENTURE, of potential, of rushing into the future at 60 mph.
Things start off with “Himalayan Peaks”, the most Tobacco-indebted track on here, as Parlous uses a similar template of tapemelt synthesizers and muscular breakbeats. “Himalayan Peaks” is FUN… the kind of music you want to listen to while eating popsicles in a kiddy pool. That may or may not be full of slime or gelatin. “Softcore” is not as pornographic as the name would suggest, more Brian De Palma than Linda Lovelace. But as an electro-breakdance thriller, it is top notch, with a simple drum machine boom-bap beat, while starburst synths meet rubber basslines. “Turn the lights down low,” as Bob Marley commands.
The jauntiness subsides on “Summer Eclipsed”, my personal favorite on here, as it is the moodiest and most mysterious. A truly beautiful electric piano drifts like windchimes, against a backdrop of rippling shadows, with a very sparse but effective beat. The shadow of the summertime, full of romance and regret and anticipation; music for after the sun has set, for the long, warm summer nights.
The bottom drops out further still with “Dawn Machine”, which is like that hour of cold blue dawn, right before the sun breaks over the horizon and the birds start up for the day. This could be the incidental music for some Jacques Coustea documentary, as yr world seems to transform into a dimly lit barrier reef. Dream with the fishes…
And lastly, “Tjeodn”, perhaps the most ominous outing, with its glitched out rhythms and backwards melodies, fuzzy warble basslines and a haunting lead, that sounds somewhere between a gypsy violin and a theremin. This could be the soundtrack for a version of Dracula, filmed in 1979.
Parlous’ music, and his personality, reveal something important about inspiration. About the past, about technology and our relation to it.
If i recall correctly, this is Parlous’ first attempt at making music, after getting interested in the music of Tobacco, Moon Wiring Club, Boards Of Canada, and various other sundry hauntologists. Most of the sounds on his debut were sourced from cheap iPad apps, and then hacked and prodded into place. He was inspired by stumbling upon the community of Bandcamp musicians, with the ease and availability of putting out music yrself.
You can tell Parlous’ influences; he makes no secret of hiding them, and quite simply, if you like Tobacco/Black Moth Super Rainbow, Moon Wiring Club, Vangelis, or old ’80s VHS soundtracks, you will adore these ferric grooves. But, more than that, superseding influences, Parlous has an arranger’s ear and an incredible palate for tasty and memorable melodies. It is these melodies, stacked and layered, quickly giving way to another, that shows that Parlous is a true musician, and would have stumbled his way into making and releasing music, one way or the other.
Parlous is a technological man. He has gadgets and gizmos aplenty; he’s got whozit and whatsit’s galore. During the time we hung out, i noticed a GPS, an iPhone, satellite radio. He described himself (and i hope it’s okay to divulge this) as a “self-diagnosed Aspergers”, which is a form of autism that “can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.” When we went to the show, he offered to buy me a beer, to discover the fact that i don’t drink, which is kind of rare and weird in this rock ‘n roll world we dwell in. It is an awkward situation for almost anybody – he seemed non-plussed for a moment, then asked if i would like something else instead, and if it would bother me if he drank. That is pretty much the most reasonable, logical, considerate reaction one could hope for, and i was able to tell him i didn’t mind at all if he imbibed, i just don’t partake myself. Here is a man who is describing himself as an “Aspy” (someone with Asperger’s), who is actually entirely smooth, competely genteel; someone who is both mental and emotional.
I submit, for the record, that Parlous processes his emotions through his intellect (which is how i am), and, similarly, he conjures his music with technology. He is using technology emotionally, and i think he would’ve done the same with whatever tool happened to catch his fancy, whether that be jazz or classical piano, or violin, or tape-collage. We like what we like, and there is little accounting for what ignites that initial spark of interest.
This is noteworthy, as Parlous’ music may be digital in origin, but is leagues away from the clinical austerity of Vaporwave, which i perceive as the REAL sound of Asperger’s. Parlous’ music is full of excitement, passion, and adventure. It will light you up, and inspire you, as he was inspired.
To me, this is the best way to use technology; it is the heart and mind working together. Using technology to CONNECT, rather than isolate. To more fully express yr emotions, with greater control and detail, rather than disassociating or escaping. And using technology to dive in and express yrself!
This is the kind of bold audaciousness i applaud. Don’t wait for permission; do yr thing, and likeminded people will find you. I mean, Forestpunk is about as raw and ragged as they come, and i’m sure there have been some embarrassing moments in the last 2 years, as i’ve been learning and figuring things out. But fuck it, this is my thing, and i’m putting it out there, and i’ve met tons and tons of like minds, sympathetic souls, kindred spirits, and partners-in-crime like Parlous, along the way.
Very much recommended, and the cassette is super sweet, which i recommend nabbing while there are still copies.