Park Avenue Music: For Your Home or Office (Clairecords, 2004)
One of the highlights of California label Dream by Degrees’ stellar Blue compilation was a track by husband and wife team Park Avenue Music. Their song, entitled “Sun, So Bright”, showcased a beautifully sublime melody, sung by an accomplished female singer, over a bed of strange down-tempo electronic noises. Somehow, Park Avenue Music was able to convey a sophisticated blend of modern electronic slowcore music with an almost jazzy feel. Combined with Park Avenue Music member Wes Steed’s deconstructive remix of Sappington’s “Airtight” on Summer, “Sun So Bright” demonstrates Park Avenue Music’s talent for combining experimental instrumentation with lovely songs.
And Park Avenue Music does not disappoint with their long-awaited EP release, For Your Home or Office, on Clairecords. Featuring 6 tracks of music that spans over 30 minutes, For Your Home or Officeis an engaging collection of odd electronic noises that cradle soothing melodies. “Cutter” starts of the EP with a subtly building keyboard loop that is supported by a flourishing piano line and a stuttering drum machine beat. After over two and a half minutes of the improvisational sounding music, Jeannette Faith’s jazzy, distorted vocals surface, immediately giving the song structure and a longing feel. Following this song is the emotional “The Mellow One”, in which Faith’s vocals immediately emerge, buoyed by the delicate keyboards of Steed. “The Mellow One”, at times sounding like a tender ballad for the 21st Century, builds with tension with the ever-quivering instrumentation and euphoric vocals. After listening to this song, one cannot help but be impressed with Faith’s ability to belt out notes with confidence and passion, even as her vocals are buried under a mountain of effects. “Golden Hummingbird” is another exquisite example of Park Avenue Music’s ability to combine a sense of musicality in songwriting with electronic experimentation that adds to the songs. Again, Faith’s vocals are distorted and sampled (a la Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place), as a host of throwaway electronic sounds and beats give the song a forward progression. Unlike Radiohead, though, Park Avenue Music intriguingly convey a sense of warmth, and even human emotion, in the midst of the cold electronics and disembodied vocals. “Golden Hummingbird” fades into a minimalist interlude, only to reemerge as a fully-fleshed song in the outro, with sounds and a sonic appeal as accessible as the band’s Blue contribution. The remaining songs, “How’s Your 401K” with its strange beats and dissonant vocal melodies, “The Modern Guide” with its dark mood and heartbreaking lyrics (“home is where the heart breaks”), and the curiously-titled, mellow, and free-form sounding “Betrwax”, only add to the lure of For Your Home or Office.
On For Your Home or Office, Park Avenue Music offer a musical experience that is satisfying, haunting, and only vaguely accessible. The fascinating ability to convey a sentiment of human frailty and passion through the accomplished vocals of Faith, the warm melodies, and the tools of Steed’s cold, metallic electronics is one that sets Park Avenue Music apart from the host of electronic-based bands. For fans of: slowcore gobbled up by glitchy electronics, Sappington, Low, Film School, Kid A-era Radiohead, and experimental music in general will find comfort on For Your Home or Office.
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