I immediately enjoy this song’s slinky, semi-minimalist setting—we are shuffled into an offbeat unfolding of 4/4 without a lot of fuss. There is something ongoingly makeshift about this song, as if these are the folks who wandered in and started playing, while waiting for the rest of the band to show up. Front man Adam Pierce, also the drummer, is the first singer we hear, but his half-hidden vocal is really just a tease; the song becomes the property of second vocalist Caroline Lufkin as soon as she opens her mouth (0:42). She’s got one of those voices that feels both gentle and piercing (no pun intended; well, maybe partially intended) at the same time. Their voices work especially well together (although I’m still not sure how his voice ends up quite so mixed down on his last lead line, at 1:12—seems either a mistake or a private joke).
“Contessa” furthermore continues a streak of songs here featuring a compelling instrumental section. It starts as what seems like a standard, post-chorus instrumental break (2:44), although its cool keyboard lines and fractured drumming make it not all that standard in the first place. Around 3:06 it gathers force and leads us, via some extended percussive tension, into a second instrumental episode, this one featuring a lazy series of keyboard lines and (I think) distorted guitar blurps over a repeating but difficult-to-digest drumbeat. We seem to have stumbled upon some very odd sort of jazz combo, and while waiting for the song to re-establish itself, I looked at the clock and realized we’re running out of time. The song just fades. I kind of liked that, for whatever reason.
Based (where else?) in Brooklyn, Mice Parade is one of those “only in indie rock” kinds of outfits—an experimental post-rock ensemble with fluid membership and shifting sonic affiliations that tools along for years in relative obscurity. The constant has been Pierce, previously known (maybe) as drummer in the band The Swirlies. Mice Parade records have been coming out semi-regularly since 1998, with titles like The True Meaning of Boodleybaye and Bem-Vinda Vontade. “Contessa” is the second to last track on the new Mice Parade album, entitled Candela, which was released this week on Fat Cat Records.
photo credit: Oleg Pulemjotov