Upon listening to the first couple minutes of this new album by Mice Parade, you may think that you were misled into buying an album of meandering acoustic guitar. It's just the introduction and beginning part of "Open Air Dance," though, and by the time the layered pieces come in at the end, it's clear that it's much more. In fact, one of the comparisons that I've always heard of Mice Parade is that they sound like Tortoise. While that is somewhat true on some tracks (mainly through use of some nice vibraphone sounds in an instrumental rock environment), they're also more than that. Mainly the work of one person (Adam Pierce plays well over 10 instruments on the release and produced it) and some others chipping in on various tracks, Mice Parade takes post rock and injects it with a nicely needed dose of worldly flair, giving the group an interesting foothold.
When I say worldly, I don't mean that Mice Parade lounges in the rather cheap or watered-down sounds of what most people would consider world music either. Instead, it's with the use of lots of different instrumentation (including the cheng (a chinese harp), dulcimer, various rattles and marimbas) added to the already fairly standard bass, guitar, drums, and keyboards that helps to flesh out the sound of Mokoondi and make it into one of those albums that you'll find yourself listening to over and over again.
The aforementioned "Open Air Dance" is a single song broken into three tracks that starts out the disc and after the open minutes of strummed guitar, it launches into a rhodes organ filled, polyrhythmic track that stuns in the middle section and winds down nicely in the third part. The second song "Into The Freedom World" is similar in that it is also broken into 3 different tracks. While the first takes off in a fairly standard way (and is probably the closest that the album gets to sounding like Tortoise), while the second part of the track breaks off into a shimmering interlude with layered vibes, chimes, and guitars that lull. The third part of the track is where the track really takes off again, though, with the addition of a saxophone and some echoing electric guitar layers.
One track that sounds like it could be a world release (mainly because it is only comprised of organic instruments) is the violin and cheng duet on "Circle 1." The mysterious, live sounding vocals in the background only add to the field recording flavor of the track and as a short interlude, it works quite well in the context of the disc. As the album winds down, "Ramda's Focus" adds a nice burst of energy with a raining of dulcimer and almost breakbeat style drumming while "The Castaway Team" would probably appeal to Stereolab fans with its dreamy vocals mixed with marimbas and violin. It's probably the most "rock" track on the album as well, adding in electric guitars to the mix, but still manages to not sound out-of-place.
The album closes out with a field recording of a Brazillian man singing on a beach, and it's sort of a fitting end to things. It's stripped-down and very pretty, without a touch of pretense (his name and address is even included inside the cd case). While the rest of the album isn't simple, it does lack a certain pretense and has an almost live sound on most tracks that give it an accessibility that a lot of post rock albums don't have. Although there is obviously studio mixing going on (as there has to be when one person plays a majority of the instruments), the disc is just plain listenable. Another excellent release on a small label.