espite my constant self deprecation and ironic self distance from the world I will admit that I enjoy the finely crafted pop song. There is something deeply ingrained in the three minute statement of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus format that speaks to all people. I confess that it speaks to most people that I know personally in a way that causes revulsion, but these three minute gems of over produced radio friendly jingles are my secret pleasure at the end of the day. Of course, my friends tend to hold indie cred as the royal scepter along with their crowns of “Indier Than Thou” status. This creates the conflict that I find myself in each day. How can I balance the experimental and independent music that I enjoy with the radio ready songs that I secretly love to hear? E-vax has appeared to answer this question on his most recent release, Parking Lot Music.
Over the course of 11 songs and 45 minutes E-vax sways back and forth from upbeat to melancholic numbers, while maintaining a focus on the melodic tenor of the tracks. Each song maintains a modicum of experimental beat manipulation, yet keeps the undercurrent of the song the same for the duration of the track. Taking cues from the school of IDM pioneered by artists such as Boards of Canada, ISAN, and Freescha, E-vax steps off from their influence to create something less child-like sounding and more mature. This is the main thing that separates E-vax from other melody driven IDM composers, in my mind. The focus does remain on the melody, but the sounds used to create said melody are not as naïve sounding. To the discerning ear, the synthesizer sounds of Freescha sound as though they belong in either a 1970’s psychedelic movie or Seasame Street. In contrast, E-vax’s choice of sounds is driven towards a less kitsch laden sound than his predecessors. It sounds as though E-vax chose not to bring out the Fisher Price synthesizer and bought the more grown up Kurweil model. His music benefits greatly from this choice, in my opinion.
Standout tracks from the album are few, mainly because all of the tracks maintain the same sort of structure and length. “Tide Pool,” though, contains a beautiful melodic line underscored by a simple three note bass line. The melody and bass line are complemented by a drum track that contains the typical crunch/static beats that run rampant on IDM releases. At one point in the song the melody goes up to a higher register while the beat appears to close in on itself, E-vax “rescues” the elements by returning to the main theme creating a poignant moment in the song. The second time that this device is used in the song, all of the elements disappear except for the opening line, creating the inevitable and perfect ending that fades away into the next track. Only on a few select songs does E-vax break out of the pop song mode to create ambient pieces that fade in and out of consciousness. On “S. Carter,” a sound that seems to be a knife sharpening opens the song and quickly fades into a beat. A slight melody plays in the background as the beat continues on, unabated. As the song goes on, the melody fades in and out of the track allowing E-vax to showcase his programming skills. This track and a few others strike a contrast to the intensely pop sound of the majority of the record.
In the end, stripped down to its essence, E-vax’s Parking Lot Music is pop music. One can only imagine, while listening to the record, the sounds of various manufactured record label produced female singers singing over tracks like these. Fortunately for me, and the rest of the world, E-vax has taken on pop music from a more obscure angle and has succeeded in making one of the finer releases of the year.