Mice Parade – Live at The Ruby Lounge, Manchester 08/10/2010

Review by Oliver Key

Mice Parade made Manchester magical, kicking up a mystical musical storm in the heads of the hundred or so who attended, shifting between chaos and clarity to conjure up ethereal spirits which brightened Tuesday city darkness and drove us halfway to the madness we crave.

Brainchild and anagrammatical namesake of Adam Pierce, Mice Parade are on tour following the release of their latest album ‘What It Means To Be Left-Handed,’ out on Fatcat Records, and they are here to show us what it is, that being the 8th full length masterpiece of a man who’s name spells mice parade and his motley crew of wizard musicians.

The album brings together a vast smorgasbord of musical methods and styles to create one turbulent, beautiful and oh so complex arrangement which, like much of the bands material, I have long had a fondness for but have always found very difficult to make head or tail of. Seeing them live for the first time may have changed this however, for it is the way in which this mixing bowl of sounds projects so well in a live setting which impresses me the most.

All 6 members who performed at the show swapped instrumental duties throughout, and it would be so very easy for the whole thing to have turned into a massive game of let’s play all the far-out styles we know in one noisy jam session, but they kept it as tight as a ducks or a nuns, despite allowing themselves the odd freak out abstraction, signalled only to each other with a nod or a smile, and not once did it sound as though one member was overpowering the rest. No greedy solos allowed, all the instruments dipped and rose again to have their turn, as though the whole thing started out as a jazzy improvisation and then they penned it.

The band have reintroduced some African influences to their sound, reminiscent of their 2001 album ‘Mokoondi’ and this means that the drums come out in full force throughout the show, afro-beat rhythms and other jazz stylings keep feet tapping and add a sharpness to what with Mice Parade can often become a somewhat fuzzy affair, and when they shift from massive shoe-gaze walls of noise into clean, crisp, stupendously complex and almost math-rock inspired arrangements it becomes apparent that they have reached the high heavens of experimentation.

Pierce’s soft, dreamy voice keeps the set grounded and works beautifully alongside the delicate electronic melodies which pop up now and then. The band know when to lay off the full-scale attack and there are moments when all of a sudden a song drops from huge and pounding to fragile and profound, leaving vocals and keyboards to carry each other like whispers in the wind.

Best of all is that every member smiles throughout, swapping knowing glances and little giggles when they try something and it goes perfect. They are clearly experiencing things we will never know, and it is truly a blessing that they have chosen to share with us a glimpse of that experience.

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