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Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

The Elusive Parallelograms Go Back to the Future

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   Listening to "Rev," the first song on the Elusive Parallelograms' new album and everything changes, one's immediate reaction is to get up and dance around the room. It's an incredibly fun song, one meant to immediately grab the listener's attention. I could easily see the band playing a Factory Records party circa 1991, as their psychedelic-tinged rock would have fit in nicely with such acts as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.

  At the same time, the Elusive Parallelograms also seem to share the anything-goes approach to songwriting that marked the Manchester music scene throughout the late-1980s and early 1990s. From the mellow acoustic sounds of "Coagulated" to the punk-rock feel of "Destroyer," and everything changes is marked by a refreshing appreciation of the benefits of musical eclecticism. Yet perhaps the most interesting aspect of the band's sound is their use of sonic layering. When all the guitar tracks kick in on "Asleep," for example, one is confronted with an extraordinarily dense wall of sound. Yet the outcome of such a strategy is never completely overwhelming for the listener. Like those who have successfully mined this territory before (think My Bloody Valentine), the Elusive Parallelograms maintain a sense of much-needed melody as they push the volume higher and higher.

  As more and more of their indie-rock brethren opt for a stripped-down approach to songwriting, this insistence on creating multilayered soundscapes allows the Elusive Parallelograms to distance themselves a bit from many of their contemporaries-a development that the band seems to welcome.
"I don't associate a lot with what is going on," explains vocalist/guitarist Andrew Foys. "I really don't feel any draw to much of the music that is coming out today. I feel completely divorced from it." And while such a statement could read as a bit depressing, Foys' take on the current state of musical affairs in America has actually proven quite liberating for him and his band mates. This sense of disconnection has allowed the Elusive Parallelograms to explore the group's sound on their own terms. According to guitarist/vocalist John Hense, "We just want to play whatever we want, whatever comes to mind. We're not going for a certain feel-it usually just comes out."

  Such a commitment to complete artistic freedom would leave many young bands rootless. Yet the Elusive Parallelograms have managed to anchor themselves by understanding the history behind the sounds that they have come to embrace. Listening to the band members list their shared influences-a list that includes The Velvet Underground, Television, The Stooges and My Bloody Valentine-I am struck by the band's collective curiosity: They are genuinely excited about the process of learning from the past.

  Interestingly, the songs on and everything changes may remind many listeners of a distinct era in the history of Milwaukee music, the mid- to late-1980s, when bands such as Plasticland and Liquid Pink combined pop and psychedelic music in powerful ways. And while the band may be a bit unaware of such a moment (drummer Cory Husher notes, "I hear the '80s was an awesome time for music in Milwaukee"), this sense of continuity may mark a new direction for underground music in the city.