Cale Parks - Sparklace (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Cale Parks

Sparklace (2008)


Cale Parks is the drummer/percussionist for Aloha as well as White Williams, but he's not a rookie to the solo game; he snuck his first release (2006's Illuminated Manuscript) by me. A fairly far cry from his day jobs, alone Parks prefers to occupy a niche forged by Brian Eno's Another Green World, though never getting too ambient, with interesting beats and Gary Numan-style synths.

I was surprised at first at what appeared to be an album driven by drum machines, which as the work of a drummer I found odd. Turns out he actually samples himself, manipulating, filtering and pitch-bending the drum sounds he records, then building the beats out of his unique sounds. Pretty sweet, and way more work than most people would bother with. Some of his created beats are faux-electronic, like the blooping fills in "Early On," but others keep a more organic feel, from the D-Plan power funk on "Two Haunt Me" to the Stomp-style junkyard feel of the beat for "Train Lady." The drums are not really the focus here, although they rightly become more of a focus when you know this tidbit.

"Every Week Ends" straddles the line between organic and electronic elements with a mechanical-sounding groove layered with natural tom fills and synthesizers meshing with Park's vibraphone. More strictly electronic is the previously mentioned "Early On," a super-chill tune with atmospheric synths and Parks singing seemingly coming from deep inside a cave. This tune more so than most here recalls Radiohead's electronic work. "Age of Reform" drives with a jittery mechanical beat and bending bassline, but stays mellow with vibraphone standing in for windchimes (blown by synth-wind) and pleasant harmonies in the chorus vocals.

Honestly, this album tended to lose me in the more ambient midsection, my mind unintentionally drifting to the mundane tasks of daily life rather than really listening. Ever since I found out the interesting birthing process of the beats here it has happened less, but I still find the sequencing of the album a bit off. Parks doesn't really let loose until the album's end. He gets a bit rowdy on the above-mentioned "Two Haunt Me" but keeps it melodic with a duet with his girlfriend, who has a pretty, simple tone. "Some Sew, Some Find," for all intents and purposes the album's closer, is the craziest of all. It starts with what sounds to me like Parks ‘drumming' on the strings of a distorted bass (or something), and this clanging noise is joined by a galloping tribal tom beat, skittish synths and a roller-coaster melody line. Instead of winding down the album, it revs up to these more intense seventh and ninth tracks, grabbing my attention again just as it's over.

This album was a grower for me, helped along with the knowledge of its creation. Sparklace is a well-constructed labor of love that I can appreciate as a musician, but as a listener will not be my go-to record for most situations; for chill music, though, it fits perfectly. Maybe I'm just jealous as Parks has clearly fulfilled a vision here, single-handedly completing a solid and unique work.