With time spent drumming for both post-rockers Aloha and electronic act White Williams, in addition to two full-length solo albums, Cale Parks has an impressively broad resume, and one that finds him taking on different styles with each new project. His two solo albums, Illuminated Manuscript and Sparklace bridged the gap between his two bands while adding in an element of avant garde classical sounds that recall the likes of Arvo Part or Steve Reich. With his latest EP, To Swift Mars, Parks primarily sticks to this marriage of styles, but in spite of its short nature, it offers up some of his best solo work to date.
To Swift Mars is essentially a synth-pop album, and an incredibly good one at that, though Parks’ tendency toward jazz and post-rock textures and techniques keeps it from ever being a thoroughly straightforward album. The throbbing, bouncy opening synth melodies of “Eyes Won’t Shut” immediately recall the recent, hypnotic compositions of Junior Boys, while the soaring, melancholy chorus is more inclined toward the art-pop of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. “Running Family,” meanwhile, builds from a hard grooving bassline and billowing bits of woozy synth, while “Knight Conversation” finds Parks opting for Broadcast balladry through a wall of pipe organ effects, and some sweet female backing vocals. “Crystal Air” is much closer to Parks’ work with Aloha, however, and “One at a Time” is hypnotic and synthetic in the best way, layering on the vocal effects and disco beats.
With his previous two releases, Cale Parks had already made small strides in standing apart from the other bands in which he plays. But on To Swift Mars, Parks reveals a stronger set of songs and an approach just artful and diverse enough to stay consistently interesting. Between its crevices and folds, To Swift Mars reveals highbrow, avant garde elements, but at its heart, it’s a pop record, and a really good one at that.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.