Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review: Max Tundra - Parallax Error Beheads You ( * * * 1/2)

Last year I began my first real steps into discovering the wonders of electronic pop music. I suppose I'm what you would call a late bloomer in that regard, but while I was certainly aware of the genre before, I had always dismissed it as "not my thing." Fortunately, I've been coming around and trying to make up for it by getting my hands on music by some of the more relevant and current electronica artists, including English producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jacobs who records under the name Max Tundra.

Jacobs' music includes some more organic musical elements, but his songs have a very digital feel. Last year's Parallax Error Beheads You, his third effort, is a veritable explosion of scattered synth and key arrangements behind colorful stories of love gained and lost. Many of his tunes are bubbly and bright, like the ode to finding love online, "Will Get Fooled Again," the funky, disco-tinged "Which Song," and "The Entertainment," which buzzes merrily along before the techno-inspired key work takes over. For several tracks on Parallax, Jacobs experiments with more abstract song structures and melodies, as on the piano-led groove of "My Night Out," the 'instrumental' "Orphaned," and noisy, grinding "Nord Lead Thee." The more unapproachable material actually rounds the album out well, though the pop songs are probably the most enjoyable.

I think what kept me from loving Parallax is the busyness and unrelenting pace of the music. The hyper-active arrangements are impressive and easy to appreciate, but if I'm not in the right mood, too much of the record grates a bit. I realize that this is probably a matter of perspective rather than simply stating whether or not the album is 'good,' but I found that this really is music made more exclusively for fans of the genre than for fence-sitters like myself. Still, the compositions and production are spotless and Jacobs seems to be simply unable to contain his wealth of ideas. The album would be far less interesting without Jacobs' unwillingness to show restraint, though it may have been slightly more palatable.