Niklas Kramer’s first official release as Still Parade was 2013’s Fields EP, which featured the indie folk inspired track “Actors” as well as three other light, airy tracks with simple, mainly acoustic instrumentation. Since then, the Berlin based singer, songwriter, and producer has dramatically changed his sound to something more dense and substantial, transitioning from the austerity of acoustic folk to something Kramer refers to as the amalgamation of dream funk and psych pop. In Still Parade’s debut album Concrete Vision, Kramer’s lush, summery persona is further fleshed out, while leaving just enough space for introspection.
While the entirety of Fields was recorded in a professional studio, and, as a result, appeared slightly overworked, Concrete Vision has a softer, more delicate sound, due to the fact that Kramer took to a more domestic recording space in order to fully embrace the diy, lo-fi aesthetic that found him over the past three years. The whole “bedroom/apartment as a recording studio” has increasingly increased in popularity over the past few years, and often times it can feel forced or even emotionally sterile, but for Still Parade’s particular sound, it is definitely required, and it especially pays off in Concrete Vision. Opening track “Seasons” purely embraces that dream funk mindset with two minutes of quivering synth and Kramer’s flinty, borderline falsetto voice, leaving the listener wanting more. “Seasons” drifts seamlessly in stunner “Walk in the Park,” which features a breathtaking piano riff in the midst of layered synth, which is then interrupted by calm, introspective vocals, as if Kramer is actively urging you to take a break from the frustrations of life and just breathe. More standout tracks include the slightly psychedelic slow jam “Chamber,” as well as the textured, evocative “7:41,” the most suggestive of Still Parade’s skill as an artist.
Ironically, these standout tracks are all dispersed equally throughout the album, and the tracks in between act as both literal and figurative filler. In tracks like “Let Go” and “Everything Is Going Down (Again)” Kramer happily remains within the folds of summery synth and plays it safe, forgoing the chance to take risks in instrumentation and overall feeling, and thus ends up flowing together. In fact, it seems like many of the core melodies are often repeated, taking the similarities in the jaunty piano riff in “Walk in the Park” and the bass lines in “7:41” and “Morning Light” as prime examples. Despite the hiccups, however, Kramer does honor his ’70’s and ’80’s influence and inspirations, solidified by the lush closer “True Love,” sounding like something straight out of a John Hughes film. The magnum opus of the album, however, must be the absolutely mesmerizing track “7:41,” beginning with the swells of wonderfully squawking synth, bright drops of piano, and pounding bass, and ending with Kramer’s gentle vocal reassurance that everything will be okay, that there’s absolutely no reason to cry or hide yourself away.
Again, despite the slight hiccups, this remains the quintessential debut album, as it simultaneously establishes Kramer’s current personality as well as actively lays down the foundation for something even more evocative the next time around. Kramer’s use of synth is still wonderful and Concrete Vision is light and joyful as a result, making it perfect for the summer months.
photo by Tonje Thilesen