Personnel: Tim Furnish, Breck Pipes (guitar); Brian Sweeney (synthesizer); Evan Bailey (drums).
Recording information: La La Land, Louisville, KY (03/2015).
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. ~ Paul Simpson