Twas just under a year ago that I fell under the trance of the instrument called the Cheng on the Mice Parade release Mokoondi. The other name for the instrument is a Chinese Zither, and although that sounds a bit goofy (how many times have you fallen under the trance of a zither, anyway?), there's something about the tones that it emits that puts me in sort of a musical zen state. Along with the cheng, though, Mice Parade uses several other instruments, and played in combination it made for one of my favorite albums of last year. Having put together a touring group (including Doug Scharin of Him and Dylan Cristy of the Dylan Group), Mice Parade took their sound on the road last year and All Roads Lead To Salzburg is basically a document of that new, expanded live sound.
Often times, live discs really don't do a whole lot for me, simply because the group sounds like they're rehashing the same track on the disc, but Mice Parade obviously know something about working a groove and floating a vibe like magic. Even though they take "Circle 1" (which was a short track on Mokoondi.) and stretch it to almost 9 minutes for their BBC Session version, the subtle differences (and slight digital manipulation) turn it into an entrancing (there's that word again!) reworking.
Not only do you get live versions of several tracks off Mokoondi, but the disc also features several new tracks, as well as some lo-fi sounding remixes done on an office computer that fit into the sound of the disc in an interesting way without throwing things off too much. After opening up with the aforementioned reworking of "Circle 1," the group shimmers into "Phasen Weise" before some huge percussion drops during the second half. After the somewhat noodling "Freedom World Excerpt," the album launches into a hugely solid mid-section.
The new, album-titled track of "All Roads Lead To Salzburg" again finds the group stretching things out to over 10 minutes, but once again they make good use of it. Starting out with a simple cheng melody, the track layers on classical guitar, some tripped-out beats and vibes, and some other nice effects for a post-rock, dub epic with ethnic influences. Following on it's heels is "One Road Led To Columbia," which is a track culled together on a PC of various live bits and then tricked-out with all kinds of delays and reverb. Although it's much less organic than other tracks on the album, it still sounds at home among the other tracks.
The only parts of the album that aren't quite as interesting are the fairly by-the-numbers live versions of "Open Air Dance," but by the time the group gets to "Part 4 - The Levitation," you're willing to forget some of the less solid moments as the group again coaxes wondrous sounds from their instruments, easily invoking the title of the track with brilliant percussion and hazy layers of sound. Even if you own several other Mice Parade releases, this one has enough new material and is different enough that it's well worth things if you enjoy the group. After hearing it, I only wish I would have driven the 4 hours to see them play.