Seasonal synth fun
The Melbourne-based electropop outfit Parralox need little introduction. Since their 2008 debut album Electricity, the band have won critical acclaim and built up an impressive catalogue of energetic electronic pop releases.
Collaborations with the likes of Ian Burden, Ade Fenton and Marcella Detroit have all been part of the Parralox story. They’re also a popular choice for remix duties (including recent mixes for The Rude Awakening and Caroline McLavy). Meanwhile, the style and branding of the outfit is masterminded by Parralox founder John von Ahlen, giving Parralox a striking visual appearance.
Part of Parralox’s output is the semi-regular Holiday mix album, a concept which features intriguing renditions of classic tracks. Some of the choices are classic electronic tunes, while others are more left-field offerings. But all are arranged in that euphoric pop style that Parralox excel at. The latest release, Holiday ’18, continues this trend and delivers a perfect balance of music that will have a sense of familiarity, while also offering something new.
Previous release Holiday ’17 featured an eclectic combination of song choices, including cuts from such iconic acts as Depeche Mode and The Human League. But the album also featured the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Cure and Strawberry Switchblade to give the venture more scope.
For the latest release, Holiday ’18 brings together covers of songs by Blondie, The Human League and (once again) The Cure among others. Parralox, under the steady hand of John von Ahlen, also take time to visit their electronic magic on more unusual choices, such as The Beloved’s ‘Time After Time’ and ‘Don’t Change’ from INXS.
While many cover versions appear to tread too close to their source material, Parralox offer up refreshing arrangements that breath fresh life into the songs of choice. Take ‘Don’t Change’, originally a 1982 tune by Aussie rock combo INXS. Here, it’s synths that take over from the rockier elements of the original. Meanwhile, there’s hints of OMD in the mix (specifically, a nod to ‘Bunker Soldiers’) that offer familiar elements. A throbbing bass synth drives the whole thing along in style.
Meanwhile, ‘Be My Lover Now’ plays tribute to Phil Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’s original 1985 single in this Dare-inspired mix. A nod to the classic rhythms of The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ are weaved into this arrangement which has a breezy pop quality to it. The Human League theme is continued on a version of classic League outing ‘The Black Hit Of Space’. The spaced-out beats of the original are replicated here, although there’s a more polished finish to this rendition with von Ahlen’s vocals clear and sharp in the mix.
Elsewhere, Parralox return to Giorgio Moroder by channeling his distinctive style for ‘Sharp As A Knife’ (not to be confused with Parralox classic ‘Sharper Than A Knife’). Originally by US hip hop musician Roxanne Shante, the composition seems remarkably suited to the disco-fuelled version cooked up here.
There’s also a shoutout to ’80s Swedish pop outfit Secret Service, with a cover of their 1982 song ‘Flash In The Night’. Here, the song gets an EDM workover embellished by some evocative synth work and some busy electronic foundations.
Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass’ needs little introduction. It remains a classic post-punk tune that was built around some low tech percussion (in fact the Roland CR-78 drum machine which became the go-to solution for the likes of John Foxx, OMD and even Phil Collins back in the day). For this cover, the arrangement is a laid-back affair with easy arpeggios and a breathy vocal care of Louise Love.
Choosing The Cure for the electronic treatment seems an odd choice, particularly the laconic guitar licks of of ‘Lullaby’, which originally appeared on the rock outfit’s 1989 Disintegration album. But Parralox’s take on the song gives it more space to work in with this lengthy outing (it clocks in as the album’s longest track at over 9 minutes) that makes great use of the original’s engaging melodies.
1990s electronic outfit The Beloved were well known for their 1993 hit ‘Sweet Harmony’. Their particular lush approach to electronic compositions lent their songs a warm texture that slotted in perfectly with the more chilled-out elements of ’90s club culture. Interestingly, Parralox have chosen an earlier Beloved tune in the shape of 1990’s ‘Time After Time’. But the arrangement here gives the blissed out vibes of the original a much more muscular delivery, particularly with the driving synth rhythms and the more front-of-centre vocals.
Finally, the album is bookended by ‘Daisy’, credited to HAL 9000 and offering a tribute to the sinister AI from the Stanley Kubrick classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The winter months are usually notable for colder weather and a more dour period in the musical calendar. But Holiday ’18 offers up a remedy for the seasonal blues – as well as a reminder of how versatile Parralox can be in the studio.
As a bonus, the album is also available as a Super Deluxe Fan Bundle which features 3 Parralox remix CDs. If you order Holiday ’18 (Super Deluxe Fan Bundle) up until 25th November, you will get a name entry in the booklet of the official album.
Holiday ’18 (digital) is released today on Subterrane Records.
Holiday ’18 (Super Deluxe Fan Bundle) is due for release via Conzoom Records on 28th November 2018.
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and OMD Messages.