Textura, October 2008
lNo, L'Eixample isn't a misspelling of the French “l'example”; the album title refers to the modernist architecture Tim Arndt (aka Near The Parenthesis) encountered in the L'Eixample district during the Barcelona , Spain travels that inspired his follow-up to 2007's Of Soft Construction. Apparently, “L'Eixample” also means “extension” in Catalunyan, a meaning that's naturally applicable to the further refinement and development one hears in Arndt's Near The Parenthesis style. The San Francisco-based producer's music is a galaxy removed from abrasive, noise-based variants of the form, and the new album at times feels like a master class in “warm” electronica, with the opener “Modernisme” no finer example of just how alluring the genre can be when the right producer's involved. On subtly rapturous settings like “Cerda's Plan” and “A Brief Walk In The Sea,” piano, Rhodes , buried voices, and streaming guitars merge indissolubly with electronics to form multi-layered masses whose ebb and flow seductively draws the listener into a beatific sonic realm. Just because Arndt favours the genre's gentler side doesn't mean the music's mental pabulum either. Yes, it's pretty but it also exemplifies a sophistication in construction and design that rewards close listening. Though the gossamer web he spins in “Paral.lel” impresses as particularly lovely, throughout the album Arndt weaves together a remarkable sum-total of sounds—consider the densely arranged “Guell” and “Smdm” as prime examples—without ever lapsing into excess. The fifty-three-minute collection is about as lovely as “emotive electronica” gets.
Resident Advisor, August 2008
Near the Parenthesis' third full-length has dragged me deep into the conundrum of interpretation. You see, much of this review is unavoidably influenced by title conditioning—the infiltration of the subconscious by the record's track names. Prior knowledge of "A Brief Walk in the Sea," for example, gestured towards a rather literal interpretation. Subsequently, the softly repeating chimes which initially drew the ear were like smears of refracted light, highlighting the surface of the waves. As the understated beats emerged from the mix, it felt as though they represented a swell of current, pulling the observer's gaze below the surface; down to a swirling, cycling mass of looping glitches and clicks manifesting as the surrounding water. As with Mountains or Epic45, whose minimalist-shoegaze approach to ambient electronica shares much in common with Near the Parenthesis, there's refreshingly little to latch on to besides the music itself. No ostentatious frontman, no lyrics, no narrative other than the self-imposed and few other factors to colour the process besides artwork and a tracklist. These, though, are enough to have an influence. And it led me to wonder, rather obsessively as it turns out, what effect a totally "clean" listen would have on an individual. When hearing the fluctuating, low-pitched tones that open "Cerda's Plan," would they too see an elongating corridor; a nervous, seated man lightly drumming his fingers as the same tones shorten and diverge into insistent patterns; muffled voices from behind a nearby door, crackling and surging into washes of distortion as their discussions reach a volatile stage? As L'Eixample is partially driven and inspired by the architectural history of Barcelona, it should be no surprise that constructed spaces arise in the imagination. But such information also has an effect. It may be Tim Arndt's intention to use "Guell" as an expression of the remarkable hues, textures and curves of Gaudi's famous park through shimmering mosaics of mechanical trills and ever-prominent piano melody. Yet would this connection have been made without guidance? To what extent does it even matter? Background detail and textual signifiers can bring a deeper, satisfying understanding of creative intent, but at the same time they risk denying the listener the unique, potentially richer, experience of a stimulus-free hearing. To that end, this review itself is a problem. Sorry about that. My suggestion is this: acquire the album, remove it from all the packaging and set it aside. Forget everything you just read. Then listen afresh to an ambient triumph.
Cyclic Defrost, August 2008
Unlike several electronic artists who happen to be blessed with prolificacy, Tim Arndt continually delivers incredibly polished and lush material on his instrumental releases as Near The Parenthesis. The majority of his previous work has been met with extensive critical acclaim and for good reason – it’s delicate, instrumental electronica interspersed with an incisive and thought-provoking approach that is as easy to listen to in the background as in the foreground. L’Eixample is no different to his previous work in this respect. It’s self-assured and confident, without being brash. Taking inspiration from his travels through Barcelona and the modernist architecture around the L’Eixample district, the album is distinctly grounded by these experiences but never restrained by them. Echoes of Seefeel are littered throughout, and Ulrich Schnauss also gets a look in with the dreamy atmospherics and shoegaze remnants that make up a fair amount of the album. However, Arndt has a voice all his own as he marries synthetic elements with acoustic instrumentation. He has such a way with melody that the two are never really distinguished as separate entities, which is a stunning achievement. The emotional connection to the music is undeniable, particularly on tracks such as ‘A Brief Walk In The Sea’ which relies on a tacit collection of scratchings, squeaks and synths to conjure up the images that the title suggests. The intermittent scuttle of ‘Modernisme’ lapses into an effortless, languid melody while the divine moments on ‘Cerda’s Plan’ with piano and drum machine matched beat for beat provide lovely jump-out moments that Arndt may explore on future releases. L’Eixample is a release that will slip under the radar for many, but for those in the know it will sure to be one of the highlights of Arndt’s back catalogue, and a strong contender for one of the loveliest releases of 2008.
The Milk Factory, October 2008
For his third album, San Francisco-based electronic musician Tim Amdt, who has been officiating under the strange pseudonym of Near The Parenthesis for a few years now, sought inspiration during a trip to Barcelona, and more particularly to the nineteenth century district of L’Eixample, renowned for its modernist architecture, including some of Gaudi’s best known buildings. Having spent years in various formations through the years, Amdt finally established himself as a solo artist toward the beginning of the decade. His first album, Go Out And See, was published in 2006 on Canadian imprint Music Made By People, and was followed by an EP on Duotone that same year. Signed to n5MD shortly after, the second NTP album, Of Soft Construction, was released in 2007. With L’Eixample, Amdt returns to the gentle atmospheric postcards that defined his previous outputs and expands on the already rich soundscapes and textures that served them. The nine tracks collected here seamlessly morph into one another and melodies effortlessly float above the minute formations that act as main backbone for each individual piece. Sounding like representations of crisp, cold and foggy winter mornings, where familiar settings are swallowed in a dense veil and become haunting shapes, Amdt’s compositions move slowly, revealing various facets of their individual scope with each new exposure. But, behind the dense textural curtain which covers the whole album, lush instrumentations and sequences can be heard. Distant voices, softened pianos or rounded electric guitars create unique spaces within the music and, while contributing greatly to the overall mood, also manage to radiate altogether much more vivid tones. On Cedra’s Plan for instance, the main piano melody which emerges from the shifting waters of the first half of the piece gives a much earthier feel to the latter part. SMDM is instantly more clearly defined, but yet again, it is the piano that contrasts with its resolutely vaporous backdrop. On Empty Square, piano and processed guitars create a mood reminiscent of the collaboration between former Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie and ambient composer Harold Budd, but then the track takes a turn for the barer and more desolate until just a distant voice remains, and on opening piece Modernisme, ethereal voices contribute to the overall haunting feel of the composition. Tim Amdt has created with his third album an exquisite atmospheric soundtrack. The refined soundscapes and moods serve his melodies beautifully, and contribute to create an extremely consistent and cinematic collection.
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