James Parm: Oh My Darling (Self Released)

Eclectic offering taking in elements of alt. rock, EDM and jazz makes for a glorious debut set

Released Apr 4th, 2019 / By Clementine Lloyd
James Parm: Oh My Darling (Self Released) As debut solo albums go, this one is a bit of a head-scratcher. From its title, to its aura, to the delicately strung yet devastatingly protracted arrangements. Picking this one apart will take all the small hours one can muster. Or big hours, whatever you got! Call a friend.

Yet, in saying this we must attest: This is not jarring, it is scintillating! Artist James Parm employs elements of freeform jazz, indie, and even some EDM and hip hop, collating them with an unexpected beating heart in a space seemingly reserved for synthetic sound.

Yes he will play with expectation, leading you down a path with a knowing smile before looping back around to somewhere completely new. In opener Dead Meat, the softly spoken vocals and dreamy strings speak from this beating heart as the clarinet strikes through the percussive lilt. The ebb and flow reaches shoegaze territory—rather introspective a la the Pixies with a dash of Radiohead. One can imagine saying “You’re dead meat” at the mirror’s reflection at 3am. Even this early in, our artist defies pigeon-holing through his eclectic tastes.

With so many fractious influences, what binds this record together? Can this be defined as a loose concept album? It was certainly borne out of a set of circumstances that enveloped the subject. Some simultaneously life-altering moments ate Parm whole before he fought his way out through expression cobbled together through his purest musical loves. Listing the tracks in order, one gets the sense of a nihilistic night out, complete with the morning after epiphany in closer Re Arrange.

I Know I Know I Know performs a sort of half heard conversation in a loud between a girl and a boy that we cannot see. An indie sensibility that breaks down right around the second minute, as Parm repeats “You go, with someone now I know”. Is this for our benefit of his, we wonder?

Dying to Let You Go employs that same sweet female vocal while the track plays double time, forcing you to catch your mental breath. Its subject matter may be dubiously dark, but this is pure skittering sunshine. It highlights Parm’s ability to move out of the darkness and into the light, and it is a surprisingly deft transition. Something About True Luv flexes the lightness. Drawing in a warped music box in an echo chamber (yeah, you heard) with an easy percussive flow, the sensation is smooth and heartening. That is, before you are dropped into a breakdown that sets you adrift from the sunny shores once traversed. Its very fucking affecting!

Of course, you cannot have lightness without the dark, and it is the shadows which seem to effortlessly envelop the bulk of the record. Ur Dark is arguably the most atmospheric, spilling inky blackness in a track that would suit a DC Comics villain. Dropping into freeform jazz as we tumble towards its close, it is these moments that make the record so exciting and hard to pin down.

Pulling in some EDM for good measure, the title track is as evocative as early Calvin Harris whilst adding further fuel to concept album theorising. Lyrics “I’m a little fucked up… will you grab me when its time to go… Oh my darling give me something…” spills a doppler effect ambulance tone into EDM. Could this spell the end of the night for our unseen protagonist? Well, spoiler alert, it is the second to last track!

It is the playful approach that Parm has to the music he enjoys that keeps the whole record fresh and unchartered. The sounds he draws upon, the tones and mental images he can conjure from just the arrangements are pretty magnificent. Listening back over the record as a whole, you get the sense that it could equally be enjoyed sans the vocals. These are conversations that are going on despite, not because of, the music.

The overall sense is of the ‘beautiful lie’ of hedonism we cling to as we slide into the underbelly of our tumultuous lives. Given his employment in late night bars, its not a massive leap to make. Witnessing the frivolity of late-night drinking (snorting) and flirtng is bound to turn your head into a cacophony. It is the final track Re Arrange that gives us some glimmer of hope. There is more space to play with, a fresh baseline bubbling under the crooned vocals “scraping out your name, with every memory stained, I am trying to rearrange”.

And yet, as we are drawn into this false safety net, the violin swells of a bygone movie era is swallowed by an EDM synth that puts an edgy tilt on everything. It is like futurist nostalgia with the hope of new beginnings. Well, it wouldn’t be Parm without a hint of the unexpected. 4/5