Empty Parks –  Pia Fraus (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

When I look outside my window I see a world built of angles and sharp edges, littered with colour schemes that are either brash or drab, skies half hidden by man made structures and people who seem to be dutifully going about their business and finding little joy in it. That’s why I listen to bands like Pia Fraus. Whatever their lush and dreamy music might be the soundtrack to, it sounds like a lot more fun that what I’m looking at. Just the sound wafting around me seems to be the sonic equivalent of putting on a pair of those mythical rose-tinted spectacles and the world suddenly appears filled with lush musical textures, hazy, drifting sonic clouds, soft soundscapes and dreamy acoustics. The music of the hippy dreamtime as interpreted by a bunch of shoegazers.

And sometimes, that is all you need music to do, colour the world a bit more interestingly, spin the kaleidoscope and banish the ordinariness. And if you are looking to do that then Empty Parks is just what you need. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, Pia Fraus are more than just about creating shimmering sonics, when they chose to they can rock out with the best of them, they can throw around some interesting angularity and they can colour things with a few gnashing and wailing walls of noise. But even when doing so there is something utterly dream-like, wonderfully lush and fantastically gorgeous and otherworldly about the way they approach things.

If you want to know what the definition of the word blissful is and you don’t have a dictionary to hand, just play Sweet Sunday Snow 7 times in a row. 11 if you have time. 14 to be sure. There is something captivating about the way various layers of guitar, some shimmering, some playing more defined riffs, some just chiming around the periphery, some adding additional texture, but not too much, to the backbeat, mingle and match. Many bands think that impact comes from adding additional weight to a song, that piling up layer upon layer in one central spot is the way to grab the audience’s attention. Pia Fraus know otherwise. They know that it is all about adding breadth, about spreading out, about giving everything room to breath, room to be effective, it’s about leaving holes in the various instrumental tracks so that there is space for others to shine through.

Hidden Parks is a tsunami of graceful sound which cocoons the listener rather than sweeps them away, Paper Flower Projects shows a rougher approach to their tunesmithery, faster, raw-edged but no less appealing and still wonderfully melodic and You’re Not In Love pits their brilliantly effective, hazy boy-girl vocals against sonorous crashes of music.

This is the second time this week that I have declared that I have found what is likely to be one of my top albums of the year. That either says something about how easily pleased I am or how great a year for music it is going to be. I think it is the latter.

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