Album Review: Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You (Domino)

Max Tundra Parallax

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MP3: Max Tundra – Which Song

Max Tundra plays at the Metro Gallery tonight with Deastro, the Water, and Comeback Ranch.

Max Tundra (aka Ben Jacobs) is a one-man electronic orchestra from England. His pieces have multiple personalities, movements that hop without forewarning from one intricate synth part and drum loop to another, topped off with falsetto vocals and a surprisingly human (and modern) lyricality. Max doesn’t really use any touring musicians, which means that on stage he is allegedly a bit of a whirlwind, putting on what could be the most energetic show you’re likely to see in some time. I haven’t been part of the event, and unfortunatelty won’t be able to see him tonight, but it promises to be fascintating.

On record, Max is quite a different animal, a mad scientist in charge of every last detail of recording and production. His music a tangible texture constructed out of antique trinkets and machines, strings and horns layered and then filtered through procesosrs. Overall, Parallax Error Beheads You is a mezmerizing listen. A classically trained musician, Max has been done arragnements for both the Arcade Fire and Final Fantasy, so you most likely have heard his material before, although this record is miles away from those groups.

Comparatively, Max is more dymanic, seemingly concerned with the methods of recording almost as much as the finished product. You could hazard a guess as to how the parts are composed, but ultimately what’s machine, what’s real instrument, and what’s real instrument that’s been run through the meat grinder of technology become as inseperable as the thousands of differnt cows that comprise your pound of ground round.

A lot of people compare Max to Passion Pit, who recently remixed “Which Song,” but Max seems far more concerned with production and songcraft (and less with big beats). A thread of old-school prog rock keeps resurfacing in the keyboard parts, giving the sense that this isn’t the case of machines run amok, but rather a skilled modern Daedalus crafting a labryinth.

In which analogy, the minotaur would be the vocals. Impersonal, alien, yet lyrically focused on the girl that left him, the words don’t call for empathy but just kind of weird you out. And cetainly he can hit all the notes, but there isn’t anything tugging at your heart strings, so much as getting in the way of all the cool music that’s going on underneath. The lyrics, printed in a glossy book with very colorful, abstract photography, looked compelling when I first read them, but Max doesn’t give them the treatment they deserve.

But perhaps I’m too focused on negatives. If you’re a fan of the cut-and-paste method of songwriting and recording, the record might be for you. The tracks are seriously layered and knotted together and clearly Max put a ton of work into the end result. His method of hyper-preocessing every note at the least deserves to be experienced; you don’t hear music this complicated every day. He obviously has plenty of fans out there so who knows, see what ya think. I bet the live show is great. And he’ll probably be so busy hopping form one machine to the next that he won’t focus on the vocals so much.

Label: Domino

Release date: Oct 20 2008

Track list:

  1. “Gum Chimes” – 3:26
  2. “Will Get Fooled Again” – 3:20
  3. “Which Song” – 5:21
  4. “My Night Out” – 1:56
  5. “Orphaned” – 4:25
  6. “Nord Lead Three” – 2:41
  7. “The Entertainment” – 2:58
  8. “Number Our Days” – 3:32
  9. “Glycaemic Index Blues” – 3:05
  10. “Until We Die” – 11:03

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2 Responses to “Album Review: Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You (Domino)”

  1. Alex Mudge says:

    At first, Max Tundra (aka Ben Jordan) reminded me of a Jamie Lidell recap, but he’s really won me over.

    Ben’s KLF cover at the Metro Gallery show was unexpected, but made my night.

    Talking to him afterward, he said his music was, in a way, a unique take on “Garage”–and we’re talking about the UK dance genre pronounced Garr-ij.

    Kinda funny ‘coz I haven’t heard anyone use that term in, like, five years…and hearing Brits say it always made be giggle to begin with.

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