Saturday, 4 October 2008

A Parralox universe

This week saw a very special jiffy bag of delights pop through the door chez moi. After months of having to listen to the wonderous Parralox via TheirSpace the first track on their new album, Electricity summed up its arrival: "Congratulations that we've come so far/It's a pleasure to meet you finally". And singer Roxy, writer/producer John and their LinnDrum don't disappoint. Their debut is as sparky as Summer Heights High and as confident as Dare. Each track is a perfect pop song. There's melody, succinct lyrics and radio-friendly vocals all held together within a verse/chorus format, and like Dare, the only instruments are a synthesizer and drum machine (although the digi effects are very much 2008).

[Click on the titles for a sample] Opening track Europa is fittingly anthemic, a paen to a new start while Black Jeans then cuts in with a Sound of the Crowd swagger to bring us back to earth. Third track, Electricity, is dedicated to the godfather of synthpop, Martin Rushent and like his own productions is as joyous as Altered Images and as glossy as Leisure Process. The stonking I Fell in Love With a Drum Machine, a clear single, has a male vocal reply vocal, a la Matinee Club, which sings: "I love my Linn Drum". How 80s! The single Sharper Than a Knife is Top Ten material: it's accomplished pop with a compelling story of emancipation. How Noughties!

The songs on Electricity could easily sit within other artists' canons: You and Me Both, a Yazoo tribute could be a Kylie track; X Minus One wouldn't be out of place on a Marsheaux album; and given the Xenomania treatment, We Believe in Electric Love could be a Girls Aloud numero uno. The End of Summer, cleverly recreating Pet Shop Boy's Rent drum track is definitely Madonna, circa Ray of Light.

It's clear there is a lifetime of influences on Electricity. Here, Roxy and John explain the music which has shaped their sound.

Buffalo Gals - Malcolm McLaren

What was the first record you bought?
John: "The first actual record I bought was Buffalo Girls by Malcolm McLaren (7" vinyl single). Although by this stage I had already discovered the joys of electronic music. I was an avid fan of Mr McLaren for many years to come and proudly purchased more of his songs, such as Madame Butterfly, Deep In Vogue (I'm surprised Malcolm didn't sue Oldfrapp), Something's Jumping In My Shirt and Double Dutch."
Roxy: "Soooo embarrassing, but it was an album from a tv show called Young Talent Time which featured little wannabe child-stars singing super cheesy songs (and the one which started the Minogue dynasty). I was traj way back!" [Clicky here for a miniscule Dannii on YTT!!]

What was the first song that made you first sit up and notice music?
"The song that really catalysed it for me was The Things That Dreams Are Made Of by League Unlimited Orchestra. It was a lovely Saturday afternoon in December 1982 when I heard that song come onto FM Radio and I just sat there between the speakers transfixed at this perfect union of the synthetic and pop. Of course I was already a massive Kraftwerk / Klaus Schulze / Jean Michel Jarre fan (all this at only 13 years old!!) but to hear electronic music in this format was something brand new. Unless you were there at the time it's hard to understand the cultural and technological context in which this music was being created."
Roxy: "I can't say any song in particular but I used to love my Walkman. I had it right by my bed - the top bunk - and used to listen to tapes and radio surrounded by garish green wallpaper."

Who has your favourite voice?
"I can only pick one? Ok then...Randy Crawford. I have listened to her for as long as I can remember and she really is one of the greats. I recommend all readers to grab a copy of her album Secret Combination as it contains some wonderful vocal performances and songs including Rainy Night In Georgia and You Might Need Somebody. I had the priviledge of meeting her when she toured Australia in the 90's (I was working at the Hilton) and I have to say her voice is phenomenal. She sounded just like she did on the CD. No autotuning there! Other vocalists that deserve a mention are Annie Lennox, Dave Gahan, Patti Page and last but not least..Divine. Yes, that's right..Divine..just listen to Alphabet Rap and tell me you haven't been entertained ;)"
Roxy: "I love Mary J Blige. She is amazing and there's a heartfelt passion there – it’s almost uncontrolled. Although I imagine she is very much its master."

Is there a song that makes you cry?
"My heart was replaced with a microprocessor in the late 80s so unfortunately I don't cry anymore. Seriously though, I do get very emotional when I listen to The Winner Takes It All by ABBA. It has to be one of the most heart-wrenching songs I've ever heard. It's emotional resonance is all the more powerful when you understand that subject matter mirrors the divorce that Agnetha and her husband, Benny Ulvaeus, were going through. The pain that they all must have been enduring can be heard in Agnetha's voice when she sings this song. Of course she is a brilliant vocalist regardless, but it's one of those magic moments where everything falls beautifully into place (unlike their marriage...whoops).
Roxy: "I’ve cried when I’m writing songs that are really true to my know when you manage to just get that match between a melody and a lyric to express a feeling."

Is there a song guaranteed to get you dancing?
"Oh yes...Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Till You Get Enough."
Roxy: "Anything anthemic always works. I loved that vid for Rock With You with Michael Jackson in a sparkly jumpsuit with a green screen created starry sky behind him."

Whose songwriting do you admire the most and why?
"That's a difficult choice, but in terms of modern composers I'd have to say Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. Songwriting is an art that you develop over time, although some people seem to be born genious songwriters. I'd say that Mr Gore has certainly matured as a songwriter and you can trace this evolution from Speak & Spell right up to Playing The Angel. Mind you, Tora, Tora, Tora was a great start! He has such a unique approach to lyrics and melody and his exploration into the darker side has given his songs a much deeper meaning and a real edge. Also, Alan Wilder of Depeche Mode. One of my all time fave Depeche songs is The Things You Said, but also Enjoy The Silence and Black Celebration are masterpieces as well. His songs are just lovely."
Roxy: "I thought that the Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers partnership was a good one. It changed song-writing in the 90s and took it to a more complex self reflective place."

Which song of yours made you think, "We've cracked it. This is a proper song"?
"In hindsight I'd have to say Sharper Than A Knife, although I also think Factory Friends is the most meaningful song I've written to date. It's a real challenge to ensure that our music doesn't fall into the cliched 80's revival movement (though a few tracks like We Believe In Electric Love are the exception. But that's just between you and me, gentle reader) so I really work hard to make sure that the production and lyrical content stays somewhat grounded in reality. In the case of STAK it was one of those fluke moments where the music and lyrics fell into place and you end up with a song that translates well in any genre, and could potentially have cross-over appeal. It takes time to distance yourself from your own creation and see it like other people do, although it never really happens that way. What I mean is - as a songrwriter and producer I will never experience the song in the same was that someone who is hearing it for the first time. But I can appreciate that it is a good song (IMHO) and probably the one of the strongest pop songs on the album."
Roxy: "Sharper Than a Knife. It was our first potential crossover song. John, who does the writing on this project, can be a little left of centre, bless him. But I’m a bit of a mainstream tragic so when we started recording Sharper Than a Knife and it was sounding like a radio song, that’s when my little 'you never know your luck, we may really have something here' voice started to whisper."

Parralox Myspace here.
Electricity can be purchased here.


Paul said...

oh the album sounds good. it sounds very good indeed. i must must must check it out. I love the more candid shot of Parralox - it's very sweet. they seem quite adorable too...

Adem With An E said...

Now; are they going to send the album to Modular? They really bloody should, as we've discussed before in email, this is right up the labels alley.

Yuяi said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE Parralox!!! Great interview! I am so loving Electricity.

Are you entering a mix in the "Sharper than a Knife" contest? I'm working on one and hope to have it in by the deadline. :P

Joseph said...

I like this album very much. I think it would be perfect if they edited it a bit though. At 15 songs (leaving out the bonus tracks on the end) it's a bit long. I think if they dumped some of the weaker tracks they could have a total gem.

Having said that... Europa, I Fell In Love With A Drum Machine, Electricity, We Believe In Electric Love, Sharper Than A Knife are all AMAZING.

"Dare!" was only 40 minutes long! :)