Anders Parker | SkyScraper Crow (Bladen County)

cd_anders-parker.gifTaken together, Skyscraper Crow is a shared, intimate experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people call him the Space Cowboy, some people will call him the Cantor of Love… and that’s the essence of Anders Parker’s Skyscraper Crow. It’s a double album, or you could call it a double release packaged neatly together. His voice and songwriting are the tethers that bind these records together. They are Fraternal Conjoined twins at best, two unique experiences sharing one vessel. The very title itself is a reflection of these distinctions.

Skyscraper is an album born of modern technology, generated digitally in entirety save for Parker’s unmistakable tenor, that cuts through the mix and hangs in the ether, sounding suspended in time. His twang is still intact, but it’s never been a drawl or had any slur, which lends to a clarity that meshes with the soundscapes he’s created with layers of keys that range from standard organ sounds to fuzzed-out Moog synths.

For anyone expecting a folk-rock record along the lines of Varnaline or Parker’s previous solo releases, take a step back. If you aren’t aware of Parker’s contributions to Space Needle, you’ll need to fire up the way back machine and cue up your sensibilities from years gone past. Anders Parker worked with drummer and keyboard player Jud Ehrbar in that band, whose two albums were closer to Sonic Youth than Uncle Tupelo. Ehrbar released a couple of solo albums under the name Reservoir while he was also drumming on Parker’s Varnaline records. The two Reservoir records were alternative-pop in the form of space-age ambient soundscapes with drum loops and samples here and there, a combination of Brian Eno and the Dust Brothers. To my knowledge, there have been no other records released save for a few tunes on MySpace. Anders Parker wasn’t credited on those albums, but Skyscraper picks up the torch they blazed. Parker may not have set out to honor his former bandmate’s musical legacy, but he more than does it justice with Skyscraper.

The use of programmed percussion will alienate some people, but its prominence is minimal on the record. There’s more to the songs than those beats. You can dance to a few of the songs, but it’s not a club record by far; it’s a record about how we dance around desire and dedication that you can tap your toes to.

For those who can appreciate the value of tone and melody, and how they’re developed over the course of a song’s arrangement, Skyscraper still has the essential elements of any satisfying Anders Parker release. Is it ironic that this is a highly emotional record? The majority of the songs are paced for meditation, and read like Khalil Gibran pondering the conflict of human needs compounded by the alienation we feel by the machinery and metropolis we’ve constructed around us with our hands and imaginations. When music aspires to be art, it can drown in the overflow of ego and pomposity, but to the discerning and disciplined patron, Skyscraper is an installation worth pondering and engaging at great length. B

RIYL: Brian Eno, Beck, Flaming Lips

Crow embraces atmosphere in a more organic fashion. Again, Anders Parker’s vocals (lead and harmonies) lie in the forefront, conveying an emotional state that’s hard to pin down. At times it sounds somber or sullen, yet he still careens and croons in a way that defies the limits of those emotions. In context, there’s a sense of serenity that overtakes you when you take in the nuances of his singing. This stands out all the more in the stripped-down context of Crow, a record that features acoustic guitar with some keys here and there, and the occasional bass line or handclap when appropriate. The change is a stark contrast as far as instrumentation and a good number of the arrangements, but not in melodies or tones. On this record, the tones and melodies are not part of a gestalt of sound, and use that breathing room to pull you in closer, to a warmer place.

Crow digs deeper into the sophistication of emotion and desires, and how we try to get closer to the things we long for, even if they are seemingly unattainable. The space in these arrangements is filled with the unseen. It’s no coincidence that most of the spiritual music of the world originated acoustically and has a hypnotic affect on people. Anders Parker has had a firm grasp on the power of this kind of music throughout his career, whether recording as Varnaline, solo or with Jay Farrar as Gob Iron.

Crow‘s panoramic focus spans introspection on the happenstance that brings love into our life, and the nature by which our lives have meaning apart from one another in our internal and the external universe. As heavy and heady as that sounds, the songs themselves are so immediate and melodic, on first lesson you won’t even realize the depth of the subject matter. Anders Parker’s guitar work is as developed and expressive as his singing, and Crow showcases it in a very flattering light. The balance of rhythms and styles covered on these 10 songs feature finger picking in the folk tradition, arpeggiated figures common in classical guitar, and even a little bossa nova-style strumming and lead on a couple of numbers, with embellishments here and there throughout. Those embellishments, the keys, handclaps and harmony vocals make Crow more than just an "unplugged" Anders Parker record. An acoustic record can either highlight a performer’s raw talent or illuminate their flaws, but used wisely it’s an aesthetic, as is the case with Anders Parker’s Crow. A

RIYL: any of the members of: The Highwaymen, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Traveling Wilburys, The Monsters of Folk

Taken together, Skyscraper Crow is a shared, intimate experience, the kind most don’t extend to their own friends and family on a regular occasion. It’s the kind of experience worth welcoming with open arms, ears, and mind.

Average: B+ | Willie E. Smith

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