If you're wondering why it's taken Max Tundra (aka Londoner Ben Jacobs) almost six years to release his third album (a full six years after his sophomore Mastered By Guy At The Exchange), a simply look at his hardware setup might explain things a bit. Instead of using a modern PC or sampler or any of that, he creates his work on a rather antiquated Commodore Amiga 500. Using tracking software that cost a dollar and cobbling everything together in painstaking ways (including, but not limited to, recording drum sounds onto mono cassette recorders twice, then using each of these for the two sides of a stereo mix), the physical act of recording music alone is a serious labor of love for Jacobs.
It's also seriously geeky, and it's really no surprise that his records sound like an odd collision of about 10 different styles. There's everything from cheeky lounge to 8-bit game soundtrack love to yes, folk, and despite other artists creating tweaked-out pop that moves in sometimes similar ways, there's no mistaking a Max Tundra record. Over the past six years, Jacobs has kept busy enough churning out remixes for other people that I actually forgot it had been so long since he'd put out a solo release, but given his absence (and again, his creation process), this spastic ten song album is close to what one might expect.
Clocking in at a lean forty-two minutes, it has the same pop leanings as Mastered By Guy At The Exchange (with Jacobs singing on most songs), but it's much more dense and frantic, mostly eschewing straightforward song structures for odd-angled whimsy and musical segues that surprise at nearly every turn. At times, this effect is breathtaking and charming, but at others it comes across as scattershot and a bit clunky. "Gum Chimes" opens things with a goofy little sing-song track that melts overlapping harpsichord melodies together with electric piano and all kinds of other sounds, while Jacobs sings about every day life observations. "Will Get Fooled Again" winds through the perils of dating in the internet age as sputtery breakbeats fire in every direction and loose-limbed midi-style melodies go nuts.
To my ear, the most successful songs on the release are the ones that are slightly more straightforward. "The Entertainment" arrives about three-quarters of the way into the album but feels like the first real revelation as it morphs from a quiet vocal and synth number into a pumping rave-style blowout (with the usual sidetracks of course). "Until We Die" closes out the release with ten minutes of playful skedaddling that winds things down with keytar, a couple jazzy breakdowns, and the usual falsetto vocals from Jacobs. As mentioned above, Parallax Error Beheads You is insanely catchy in places, but a bit obtuse in others. Somewhat hit or miss pastiche pop, Parallax Error Beheads You is harder to like that it should be.