'What It Means To Be Left-Handed' is the stunning new full-length from Mice Parade. It is the first to be released in the band's second decade of existence, the sixth to be released through FatCat, and a lustrous contribution to a glowing musical canon.
Coloured by splashes of West African Highlife, Flamenco, Brazillian Jazz, even '80s indie-rock, the album is knowingly un-hip and as distinctive and idiosyncratic as the band's previous records. It is a giddy-paced, flickering, enveloping, soaring and respectful nod to the musical influences that lend themselves to the band's sound, yet it is never derivative.
Formed by the multi-tasking Adam Pierce in the late '90s, Mice Parade was originally a solo project that saw Pierce writing each individual instrumental track as he recorded. The band now encompasses a globally-scattered handful of collaborators including Caroline Lufkin, (aka Temporary Residence's Caroline), classical guitarist Dan Lippel and drummer Doug Scharin (of HiM, Codeine, Rex, Loftus, Enablers), playing alongside guest contributors such as Swahili vocalist Somi, Meredith Godreau - aka Gregory & The Hawk (FatCat) - and members of the Japanese bands Clammbon and Toe, among other musical allies hand-picked by Pierce.
Pierce, as ever, remains the most prominent performer on this new record. His percussive work is inspired and truly unique; his Flamenco guitar playing is flowing and graceful; thick musical textures created by tuned percussion, keyboards and subtle sampling gently underpin a wealth of instrumentation. As with the earliest recorded work of Mice Parade (but not the last couple of releases), Pierce had no firm objectives before pressing the 'record' button, sticking instead to a 'create-as-you-go' process.
The album opens with the gorgeous, frolicking 'Kupanda', performed by Pierce alongside Somi and kora player Abdou. The track is one of a set of Highlife-influenced pieces that lie around songs that stray more overtly from the trodden Mice Parade path: the polar extremes found on 'What It Means To Be Left-Handed' include lush, sophisticated pseudo-electronica ('Tokyo Late Night'), a dizzyingly blissful Tom Brosseau cover ('Mary-Anne') and drifting miniatures ('Pond', 'Recover'), yet all somehow fit effortlessly within the Mice Parade persona. The album may consist of a collection of individual assets, but its identity is held together by extraordinary musicianship, by its faithful and enthusiastic acknowledgment of a 'music existing for music's sake' philosophy, and by its rich, home-produced sonics.
Pierce tells of an event that, for him, captures the essence of his intentions with the record: 'Amelia - the 8 year old daughter of mastering engineer Alan Douches - dancing with her friends in the lobby, all having the time of their lives, as the record was being played through the lobby's speakers. At that moment, critical opinion didn't matter, judgement had no place, music was just music, and its very existence was its purpose.'
'What It Means To Be Left-Handed' was mostly recorded at Adam's home studio in upstate New York, a cozy place at the edge of a forest which over the last two years has also served Animal Collective, Frightened Rabbit, Tom Brosseau, Ensemble and others in various capacities. Peter Katis (The National, Frightened Rabbit) mixed "In Between Times" and "Even," and Jeremy Backofen (Felice Brothers) engineered and assisted Pierce in mixing the rest.
The live band is a force to be reckoned with; they will be taking their 2 drumkits and 7 people out on the road worldwide this autumn and winter, hitting the UK with Silje Nes and Europe with Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab) supporting in October.