Parlour Premieres “New Syntax Preserves” from Their First Album in Six Years
The Louisville band deliver abrasive synth noise with hammering riffs.
Despite the tragic deaths in recent years of scene pillars such as Jason Noble (Rodan, Rachel’s, Shipping News) and Jon Cook (Rodan, Crain), Louisville continues to nurture bands with a rare gift to balance rage and beauty. One such act is Parlour, who will release their first album in six years, a self-titled affair, on June 17 via Temporary Residence. We’re pleased to premiere the opening track, “New Syntax Preserves,” below.
Lone original member Tim Furnish, who played with Cook in Crain, says, “While the spirits of Jon and Jason still live with those they affected, newer blood has arisen, pulling from an ever-diverse set of influences. I still run into folks who tell me how much Crain and Rodan meant to them and it certainly feels good to hear we made a positive difference that endures.”
“New Syntax Preserves” is rife with that distinctive Louisville sound, blending abrasive synth noise with a hammering riff and waves of random, undulating noise. “This album features more taut arrangements, favoring heaviness over delicacy than previous releases,” Furnish says.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson [-]
Louisville, Kentucky’s Parlour have surfaced every few years with an overhauled lineup and a slightly updated sound. 2016’s Parlour is the group’s fourth full-length and fifth release overall since forming during the late ’90s, and the only members remaining from their previous effort (2010’s Simulacrenfield) are group founder Tim Furnish and guitarist Breck Pipes, who was a member of art-punk band Cerebellum along with Furnish during the late ’80s. Parlour‘s lineup has two fewer members than their former septet configuration, and what’s noticeably missing on their eponymous LP are the woodwinds that graced the majority of their prior recordings. This edition of Parlour is leaner and meaner, with less of a laid-back jazzy feel than before, and a bit more of a guitar-driven aggression. While some of their older albums could feel a bit loose and jammy, this one feels far more precise and measured. In some ways, it feels like the most “math rock” the group has ever been, but while there’s certainly an angularity to the arrangements, it’s still easy to follow and never overwhelmingly complex or challenging. The band seems to incorporate electronic elements into their sound in a different way than before. While 2002’s Googler utilized the type of Pro-Tools wizardry which was common to many other post-rock bands at the time, and 2005 EP Hives Fives had a much more lush, open sound with a hint of hip-hop’s rhythmic sensibility, here Parlour use electronics to help create a tense, suspenseful cinematic atmosphere. The synthesizers on “Nadeemed” seem to function like an alarm, and “Kármán Line” is Parlour at their most dramatic. Rich, colorful vibraphone playing used to be a staple of the group’s sound, but on “Fempire,” the instrument seems to cower in fear under the paranoid rhythm. Album-closer “Decadence Herd” is a little bit cooled down compared to the preceding numbers, but its swirling synths and delayed drums still lead up to more belligerent moments. Parlour change things up a bit on their self-titled effort, but they remain as dynamic as ever.
Kentucky collective Parlour, meanwhile, are a little longer in the tooth when it comes to experimentation, and after near two-decades of rotating membership and sound release their self-titled album later this month.New Syntax Preserves is streaming now, a looping, relentless batter of pumping prog and deep set squalls of dogged guitar.
Parlour – self-titled
Recently I’ve had cause to speculate on exactly what I can and can’t accurately describe as post-rock. With so much music being made that seems to emphasise its ambient rather than actual rock influences, or that contains recognisable and often utilised influences of previous years, then inevitably elements of predictability begin to make their overly welcome presences known. The best post-rock music can take its cues from ’70s prog, post-punk, and thrash metal, but it only really works when it goes beyond those formats and develops an existence entirely of its own. A lot of musicians stick with tried and tested formulas, and they always will – every so often though a band such as Parlour make themselves heard and with varying amounts of subtlety, the boundaries are pushed once again.
Beginning in 1995 or thereabouts, and with assorted line-up alterations, Parlour have developed their notably hard-edged band sound and maintained a determinedly low profile image. It isn’t easy to find much information about them away from their own website and social media pages, unlike their Louisville neighbours Slint, with whom they perhaps shared personnel over their respective careers. Slint are revered as the progenitors of the entire post-rock scene and Parlour seem to be standing somewhere at their back, continuing to make ever more challenging and innovative music. A list of shows they have played since 1995 reveals that Parlour have shared stages with Explosions In The Sky, Martin Bisi (better known as a producer) and Mogwai, among others, which should provide the necessary pointers as to where Parlour are coming from.
Listening to Parlour is an abrasive, jolting experience. Their music is stripped back to its most basic, relying more on a live sound than on production effects and entirely instrumental. From beginning to end, their self-titled fourth album is a barbed, grimy and intense experience, the guitars crunching and colliding as the drumming takes on differing tempos and behind it all, a virulent synth keyboard jars against every other instrument. It’s a more than bravura display and doesn’t ever quite slip over into overplayed indulgence, the individual tracks retain their melodic structures and the instrumentation is tightly reined in, utilising repetition and key changes to maintain the music’s propulsive qualities.
Parlour could do things differently. They could make more use of electronics and less didactic, angular rhythm patterns. They could add vocals, a string section, a breakbeat DJ, or they could make music that knowingly references bands and musicians of the 1980s and 1990s. They aren’t doing any of those things though, and their 2016 album is going to be a defining moment for those fortunate enough to hear it, the sound of the entire previous three decades of alternative music short-circuiting, loudly.
There is very definitely more than one band going under the name of Parlour, and this review was very nearly credited to the London band of the same name but fortunately, some last minute research uncovered the facts about the US band from Louisville, KY, including that one of their previous support acts was only Mogwai (at a Kentucky hometown show in 2002) and Parlour do plough a similar furrow of instrumental post-rock, although the emphasis is definitely on the Rock part of that description. Parlour’s fifth album, since their inception some 21 years previously, is a gritty, hard edged and thrashing creature, devoid of sympathy, pity or even an effects pedal as the no-frills band sound makes their occasionally lengthy instrumental numbers sound as if they actually were recorded in a garage, in one take without overdubs and the effect is a certainly sometimes impressive one, making Mogwai sound like overly indulgent 70s prog rockers as it does.
The shaky rhythms and fretboard throttling histrionics of opening track ‘New Syntax Preserves’ aren’t half the story. Parlour play slightly faster than many post rock bands I’ve heard, and it isn’t too difficult to imagine a shouted vocal adding a defining presence to tracks like ‘Nadeemed’ and ‘Fempire’, particularly the latter with its simultaneous echoes of the Chili Peppers and Tortoise, while tracks such as ‘Catnip’ and ‘Kármán Line’ do seem to hark back to the late 70s heyday of what we used to call FM rock, albeit with a lack of lengthy guitar solos and lyrics about cars and girls. Lastly ‘Decadence Herd’ is a moody sounding dubtronica exercise that’s mostly bass and reverberating drums, and with a synth yelping plaintively in the distance until the thrash guitars kick in for thirty seconds than pull back again. It’s a fittingly abrasive finale to an album that’s a mixture of controlled tensions and occasional pyrotechnics, and as the last notes of the track fade out it doesn’t completely seem like the actual end of the album. Perhaps we’ll see Parlour supporting Mogwai sometime.
Louisville, Kentucky has long been a melting pot for some of the most ferocious, influential post-rock, acts such as Squirrel Bait, Slint and Crain carried the scene to its zenith; Parlour are kindred spirits of such bands.
Blending the explosive, caustic rumbles from the 90’s with a fresh synth-powered flavour, Parlour are looking to the future of Louisville, and they’re pioneering it with notable might.
New Syntax Preserves marks the return of the band after six years of silence and it’s as robust a return as you’d expect. Built around a simplistic pounding synth and rattling drums, it’s easy to picture futuristic Orcs and Uruk-hai striking hot blades to the beat. Rapid string hits enter the melee and it’s unsure whether they’re catapulting us to the dark depths of hell or rocketing us to the stars.