Randy Garcia is the founder of South Florida’s electronic label Nophi Recordings, and has been creating his own electronica for over a decade. Yet his newest project, the Atlanta-based Nerd Parade, has created a truly original mash-up of lappop, video games, R&B, electronic voices, powerfully expressive female vocals, country, disco, and the kitchen sink. What could all be a mess is put together wonderfully in the band’s debut release, A Delicate Bashing. An mélange of four years worth recordings in hotel rooms across the country, Bashing really isn’t like anything you’ve heard before, and that’s a pity, because it’s really very good.
The record opens with its most out-there concept, an electronic voice talking about life and video games in 1983 on “A Picturesque Sunday”. That voice comes back in the album’s middle, discussing life and video games in 1989 and 1994 to a slow electronic vibe in “Crude Polygonal Space Fighters”, and is then tacked on to the end of the finale track, “Let It Go”. The concept isn’t really annoying, but of all the sonic inventions on A Delicate Bashing, it is probably the least essential.
The most essential, however, is the soulful tone of fellow lead singer, Abby Wren. Her rich, jazz/gospel singer-like voice is a major force whenever it appears on Bashing. It unfortunately takes five songs into the record before she really comes through, but the wry country/R&B mash-up “Kenny Rogers Tune” is a real delight, with its catchy lyrics, great beat, distorted guitar solo, and infectious group chorus. Wren is at her most soulful with the grooving “A Bird’s Song”, which is really touching without ever going overboard, as well as the melancholy-about-the-past “Ice Cream”. The Nerd Parade are less ambitious with other Wren-fronted tracks, like “The Devil of California”, “Wide Asleep”, and the non-electronic main portion of “Let It Go”, but in none of those can Wren’s voice be denied.
This isn’t to say A Delicate Bashing slips when Wren isn’t at the forefront. Early track “Kitten” is some truly great lappop, melodic and flowing, with just enough driving and poignancy. The record is brighter with the preceding “Yr Horrible Stupid Life”, more indietronic-rock with the following “Smedley” (before going into a weaker acoustic second half), and hits a wawa-ing disco rhythm on “Outside” and “Spies”. All solid, these musical forays are still, however, overshadowed by the lappop of “Kitten” and the growing, carrying penultimate tune, “Resolution Day”, that, with the inclusion of Wren’s vocals, perhaps best sums up the record.
Most of the time, all music – even indie music – is just finding new ways to play the same old tricks, and all the listener has to choose from is which old tricks he or she wants to hear. That amazement of discovery one experienced when first getting into ‘music’ is lost, and never really makes it back. With Nophi Recordings, Randy Garcia has been releasing some mold-breaking electronic music, but with The Nerd Parade, he, Abby Wren, bassist Rich Wilson, and guitarist/keyboardist John Jacobus have broken the far sturdier indie-pop mold. A Delicate Bashing may be a little all over the place, but what a place they’ve found.