Parallelas – Introspección Review
Parallelas is a prog-rock project from Buenos Aires, Argentina. The line up consists of only 3 people, with the dominant sound being keyboards and piano. The lyrics are in Spanish, yet the project’s name is in Italian, meaning parallels, as a tribute to Italian prog rock. The trio started their efforts to compose music in 2017, and finally recorded and released their 2 year-long work in 2019, titled Introspección. The album includes a fusion of South American and Italian progressive rock. Songs are joyful and incredibly animate. The movement is mostly driven by arpeggiated grand piano parts, with the vocalist singing loooong notes on top of the chord changes. Some songs like Pasaje are instrumental and introduce a more mellow mood to the mix. Some like Diverso take advantage of the diverse range of electronic sounds in a synth, which reminds me of the sonic diversity of ELP’s music. I noticed that they used a few modes, like the Hijaz maqam, that are not commonly used in this subgenre. Overall, the album brings back 70s-80s non-British prog rock with a few modern additions.
Vicente Nadal Mora: bass
Ignacio Euclides: drums
Juan Ignacio D’Iorio: keyboards and vocals.
1- Despedidas (2:57):
The album opens with what sounds like a combination of electric piano and harpsichord, and after a short intro, the vocals enter rather early on. Being used to prog songs with elaborate openings to start off the album, we are left to think that maybe more effort could’ve gone into devising a more thoughtful intro to the band’s debut record.
Keyboards musically encompass a great fraction of the album, and this becomes evident from the very start. Probably because the singer/founder Juan Ignacio D’Iorio is the keyboard player, it lets us take a breath from all the guitar-dominated modern progressive rock/metal bands. The section is further flavored by the cymbal work of Ignacio Euclides. By first introducing the drums softly, it creates a natural transition when he starts to use the kick drum and the snare.
Now we should confess that no one in the Prog Loop team can actually speak or understand Spanish, so apart from the music (which in this case is rather universal), we had to ask Juan to provide us with some rough translations of the songs. The title translates to ‘Farewells’ (an odd topic for the introduction of the album) and the lyrics actually reinforce the title of the album: Introspection. It can be interpreted that the narrator is actually talking to himself (in the second person) when reflecting on the impact of “never-ending goodbyes”, yet at the same time, tries to comfort by offering hope that there will be something more (“when the time arrives”) behind these farewells.
The song features some interesting interludes in the middle, although still feeling empty because of the lack of instruments in the track. The harpsichord can create some absorbing chord progressions but without the contribution of more instrumentation, the listener is left “half-absorbed” throughout the song.
2- Brasil (8:34):
While reminding another song about Brasil that was released earlier this year (Ed O Brien), this song follows a completely different direction than EOB’s song, both songs are reminiscent of the same fresh atmosphere and breeze of the city. The peaceful long piano intro. With the addition of drums, the song gradually increases the dynamics and resolves to an instrumental section that was led by an interesting “wah” pedal effected bass and guitar sounds. After we hear similar melodies of the intro, we end up with a new section indicating that the direction of the song has changed.
Even if the bass solo, nearly in the middle of the song, is one of the highlights of the album, the personal favorite moment from the album is where the narrator starts to read poems – creating an artsy and romantic atmosphere thanks to the poetic flow of their native language.
The outro of the song is liberated from the earlier parts of the song since the rhythm gets doubled and we hear a new synth sound that has never been used in the song before.
Lyrically, Brasil tells the story (at least in our interpretation) of a nation that was forced to abandon their native land and to love in another place – a place which is far from their own people. However, as they discover the new land that they are now a part of, they are now loving there, conveying a simple message: what makes a place significant is the people that live within it.
3- Para Henry (4:43):
By creating similar intros and using similar rhythms and notes, Parallelas is stuck within a similar atmosphere compared to the previous song (and one can’t tell if it is a good or bad approach writing this way). Even though the atmosphere and the instrumental style are similar, we get to hear a higher register in terms of vocal performance – understanding the capabilities of the performer.
After each time the main piano riff hits, the drums play a fill that seems like slightly out of sync -creating the drunk playing feel that was made popular with Adam Neely’s Youtube videos. The juxtaposition between this rhythmic illusion and the highly melodic and peaceful vocal-piano performance has also found a place for itself in the lyrics: Although one should share its happiness to feel what he is feeling is real, how real can it be if you must depend on others to feel its reality?
Henry is a complicated character, full of dilemmas and contrary conditions of human behavior. After knowing the contrast of good and bad, blessed and evil, peace and war; one doesn’t want to continue this condition called “existence”. Henry has been a philosophical metaphor for all humankind, showing the deep and critical lyricism of Parallelas.
4- Tiempos Compartidos (3:09):
The piano from the start creates a more somber feel and could benefit from a more atmospheric approach, which can also separate the intro from the rest of the songs. Again, we hear the soft cymbal work of Ignacio showed itself beneath the piano layer. And Vicente Nadal Mora’s bass fills the place in between.
The next section is very hard to analyze, as it is exactly the same interlude from the first song “Despedidas”. I don’t if it’s more concerning if they did this on purpose or not. Either way, it takes a lot of courage to serve the same thing twice while well knowing that we will criticize it to the fullest. So to follow their path, I copy the same section from the first song’s review:
The song features some interesting interludes in the middle, although still feeling empty because of the lack of instruments in the track. The piano can create some absorbing chord progressions but without the contribution of more instrumentation, the listener is left “half-absorbed” throughout the song.
The lyrics sound like a love song without actually talking about love. You can feel the strong emotions the narrator is feeling towards the person whom he is talking about. Although they are separated, he still finds himself waiting for that person to come back. He’s in full desperation, where “everything seems lost” when that person “shows from the sky and saves [him]” (we may be lost in translation as we had a hard time interpreting what this line actually meant).
5- Ma (7:16):
Much like every other song, ‘Ma’ starts out with a usual short keyboard intro that leads to the verse. This can get rather repetitive after a few times and shows that intros aren’t really the strong side of the band. Although it sounds like what came before it in the album, the vocal melody and the subject of the song is stronger and feels more unique. The verses are grouped of questions to a mother (which actually reminded me of Pink Floyd’s own “Mother”) and features juxtaposing imageries (like “darkest abysses” against the lightening of the mother).
There are no drums or bass in this section, only the classic keyboards of Parallelas and Juan’s vocals. It helps to create a more sincere relationship with the mother, to whom these questions are directed at. It makes one wonder what caused Juan to write these lyrics in the first place. Only after a minute and a half do we hear another instrument. With the addition of drums and mellotron (some prog on its way?), the song picks speed.
Around this section, I want to talk about Ignacio’s drumming, because honestly sometimes I can’t decide whether he accidentally gets out of tempo or is he consciously doing it to catch the listener off guard.
The lyrics evolve with the music, in the sense that the questions start to carry more of a mature melancholy, and less of childhood innocence. And at the very end, although it could’ve been more climactic musically, Juan lays the final question that once you hear it, eminently enhances the emotional aspect of the song:
How many have cried For recalling a bit late To say a simple “Mom, I love you."
6- Pasaje (1:00):
Serving as an interlude between songs “Ma” and “Esta Cancion No Es para Vos,” Pasaje is a simple piano passage (the “Pasaje” means passage too). Taking clear inspirations from classic music, this song, even though being the shortest piece in the album, one of the most emotional. The chords they pick and their execution with arpeggios seem simple but effective. Chords come after one and another seamlessly and finally fades to silence leading to the next song.
7- Esta Cancion No Es para Vos (4:28):
This song, whose name translates to “This song is not for you,” is completely written for the lyrics. It’s about freeing yourself from societal expectations and learning to live. The song structure is very interesting! After the piano intro that we learned in 7 songs to be Parallelas’s signature, enters the chorus. The chorus sounds like a verse but is repeated 3 times in the song, where the “verses” sound like choruses but change lyrics at each repetition.
While it’s impossible to decipher what the writer exactly wanted to say in the lyrics, I have a few opinions. The song entirely talks about how everyone else is wrong about how you should live your life. Thus, I interpreted the song title as an ironic phrase. It’s as if someone is hiding the truth from you by saying that you shouldn’t listen to this song. “When are you going to live? / If you don’t let it go” means that while everyone is telling you that you will fall out and be miserable if you do not continue being a gear in the machine, you never truly live if you don’t let it go and if you take everything too seriously. “What if this is all a lie?” further reinforces the doubts that every one of us has when going about our daily lives. “You should search / That ignored path / To your own sea.” Juan Ignacio says that Parallelas is more than a band because it includes his tastes of art and literature in it. That’s why these lines reminded me of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Many of us have a choice to make between two: either live life without thinking as others want or explore yourself and live life as you want. The “default” is the former. While Robert Frost says that he “sighs” and regrets the choice he made, The lines I mentioned point out that you can very well take the “ignored path” and turn your life around.
8- Diverso (5:14):
Contrary to “Esta Cancion,” this song is all about music. Diverso is a piece resembling ecstatic Italian prog with a tad of inspiration from Canterbury Scene. The song starts out with a very wacky synth sound layered on top of electronic piano chords and a single-note acoustic guitar sound. It lives up to its name, translated as “different” or “diverse.” The intro has a very weird swing to it that I have never seen in any other song. Then enters the main melody for the song. The zippy melody is played in several different ways, in 2 different keys. Another fast-paced part with more chord comps than melodies bridges 2 macro-repetitions of this melody. I found the drums a bit chaotic and sloppy in this part of the song. While the drummer does a good job in supporting the melody with ride-bell accents, when it switches to very quick 32nd note triplet runs in the toms, they just can’t handle it. The keyboard melody is already played a note in every sub beat, so it might have been better to just use very occasional fills with a steady beat.
The theme entering the 3:19 mark is probably the most interesting part of the song. The pace change that comes with 3/4, the accordion sound, the build-up to the harsh high to low glissando all set the atmosphere of a clown show in a circus. Perhaps a clown is the best symbolism to show how colorful and playful the Parallelas sound is.
9- Lugares Comunes (4:26):
Opening with one strong chord, “Lugares Comunes” pulls the listener to itself with its simple piano sound after the weirdness of the previous song. It seems clear that Vocal took inspirations from some of the other Italian prog bands with his singing style. His accentuations give the same feeling as other prog bands.
The structure of the song is simple. The piano gives the chord progressions while simple drumming gives the rhythm. The bass works as a connecting device between melody and rhythm. The bass uses different pedals and different voices and different playing styles to enrich the song in all ways. Sometimes it is simple and works to enrich the melody and rhythm, sometimes with is funky sound takes all attention to itself. After a simple piano interlude (which is a common signature of Paralellas) same as the beginning phrase connects the simple and calm song to a build-up. The piano gets stronger, drumming becomes more intense. Piano spits out incredibly fast passages and drumming explodes.
At this point, a keyboard solo enters. It spits some shred-like phrases that the listener saw in the piano interlude. Composed of big jumps between notes and vibratos this synth solo reminds the listener to some of the Camel’s work. The tone and phrases they use to create some energy while bass gives out a simple line. The keyboard stops its solo and screams its last long notes and song cuts to silence.
10- Cruzados (6:28):
The last song of the album opens with a hollow tone. Crows caw, the wind blows, and crickets chirp. A harpsichord, coming out of the baroque age, plays a cycling melody which at every end of the loop chord progression moves a little more. It spits out more of these melodies that go up and down, creating the feeling of a baroque piece, and it finally slows down to lead to the vocal.
Harpsichord continues at a low pace while the vocal sings about crusaders. He talks from the perspective of one crusader: How he was hoping for salvation through a war against the unfaithful. He starts confidently with his mission. However, time goes by and he starts to question the morality of it all. He knows that he must save his soul but was this the correct way. Confrontation starts and everything turns into bloodshed. Murder for murder’s sake alone, stealing, rampaging… After all of this, a man can’t be the same. Our protagonist too questions this crusade’s purpose.
Even though the story takes place in the Middle Ages, some easy parallels (or should I say “Parallelas”) can be made. In today’s world, it is exactly the same. Mean interest, power, thirst for expansion are disguised as salvation. People die only for their leaders’ personal gains, making the rich even richer and those in power even more powerful. It is sad to recognize that humanity actually didn’t improve from the dark ages as much as we thought.
Our protagonist is not a special crusader, he is a simple man who has to endure this corrupt system. He represents all of us. He is used for other’s means but he also can’t fight against it. He has to fight for something he does not believe in. He keeps brandishing his sword and killing the “unfaithful” while his pain inside increases. He can’t find inner peace in this world anymore, a world fueled by personal greed and full of exploitation. Our tragic hero goes to the only place that he knows that he can only find peace. Underneath a tree, with a rope…
Bells toll for the crusader. After our tragic character’s death, an organ, resembling the tone of the funeral march, plays the farewell to him just like it gives the farewell to its listener. It explodes with screaming vocals, hard drumming, and powerful organ. Organ reaches the highest point; the song and with it, the album, reaches its final destination.