Near The Parenthesis: Music for the Forest Concourse

Anyone still unconvinced that electronic music can convey emotion need only listen to Tim Arndt's fourth Near The Parenthesis album for n5MD, Music For The Forest Concourse, to be convinced otherwise. Arndt has an uncanny talent for maximizing the emotional side of his material, with the result serenading tracks brimming with showers of synthetic sparkle and plaintive piano melodies. With its elegant piano playing wrapped in swathes of electronics, the album opener “Good Evening” proves a particularly good exemplar of the style, as does “Inertia (Stay Right Here),” where equally lovely piano playing meanders through a garden of electronic delights.

Generally speaking, the hour-long collection is a predictably stirring set from the San Francisco-based producer, who first gained attention with his 2006 release Go Out and See on the Canadian imprint Music Made By People. In Arndt's own words, Music For The Forest Concourse is “for dusk, for open air, for sitting down, and for breathing in. It is music for staring upwards and listening attentively or casually.” Though such a description emphasizes the music's calming dimension, his material can also work up a fair degree of intensity, as tracks such as “Pollarding Trees” and “Diffused” make clear (the latter could even be called shoegaze, if a guitar-less variant of it). In almost every case, Arndt gets the job done in about five minutes' time, so the album moves efficiently from one track to the next. He also brings immense craft to the construction of his multi-layered settings; though each features a wealth of sounds—beats, strings, flickering electronics, an occasional voice recording—, a sense of clarity pervades, in large part due to the central presence of the piano. How fitting it is that the quietly rapturous lullaby with which the album ends, “Good Night,” should be so strongly anchored by the instrument.

April 2010