A smeared glow of echoes, with an intimate understanding of accidental melodies.
Brad Barrett 2011-10-03
For a way of making music that has often been seen as cold, inhuman and impersonal, there have been a few great examples of touching, personal electronica albums. The most poignant, in this writer's mind, is Baths' Cerulean. The warmth and honesty generated by that set of samples, beats and vocals is inspirational. Chris Ward, aka Tropics, is a 20-something bedroom producer from the UK, and Parodia Flare attempts to recreate that evocative air.
Warped with a smeared glow of echoes and heartache, the album demonstrates an intimate understanding of notes and accidental melodies. These are refractions of sounds you could live, like an igloo. The title-track is a hall of mirrors, driven by the emergence of a solemn sonar note that acts as a funky counterpart to the twinkling blanket laid across the rest of the song. Wear Out imitates the sultry attack of a saxophone for its mantra, allowing a cheeky soft rock feel to the dreamlike, chiming song. Figures provides the first real prominent vocal above a whisper, swarmed with eerie, swampy sounds and breaking into a tasteful, brittle 80s drum accompaniment. A synthesiser howl keeps the haunting and the humid together.
The bell-like tones, shifting rhythmic accompaniment and soft sax nuances make for a stirring blend, though sustaining interest throughout the album is a challenge. Ward interlaces enough incidental sounds to keep the ear ringing, but the mind may wander from the foliage he's placed in its way. There's perhaps not enough in the way of peaks and troughs to help the listener navigate these songs, no definite path to follow and deviate from. Blurriness replaces build-up and energy – but that's the nature of ambient music attempting to be more than a huge tonal weight.
But the feeling is that this melancholy, fuzzy state encompasses that emotional warmth Ward is trying to capture. There are moments which can easily resonate, but as the record goes on there's a lightness that doesn't do much more than cruise atop familiar feelings. It's a pleasant, head-nodding mood record which deftly pieces together a wash of sound; but the best moments are when there's a defining thread to follow. And there isn't enough of those here to keep the less-focused entertained.