A nebulous, dreamlike state shrouds Obrigado Saudade, the fourth full-length from Adam Pierce's genre-meshing, improvisational project, Mice Parade (an anagram for his name). Parts of the dream are tense—see "Milton Road," where galloping acoustic guitar is subtly augmented by a crystal-clear electric and hand-clapped percussion in brisk patterns and pipelining into a hurried crescendo. Other parts are pensive and surreal. Take "Mystery Brethren," whose various instruments slowly wander their own vicinities in the sonic spectrum for 11 minutes before uniting and flurrying in harmony. The song sounds like an uncannily successful improvisation, but it's actually a cover version of Jim O'Rourke's remix from Mice Parade Collaborations (2000). The faraway "Focus on the Roller Coaster," whose initial delayed piano-key twinklings evoke images like an arctic sunrise, builds in tempo for four minutes until it drowns into a completely foreign chord progression, like interference from a distant radio station. Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir's breathy vocals add to the haze on several tracks, and Pierce himself sings lead on "And Still It Sits in Front of You." Less spontaneous than 1999's Ramada (which was recorded entirely in one take without overdubs), Obrigado still has a Latin-tinged, jazz-infused jam-session feel, despite the fact that Pierce goes much of the album alone—less than half the tracks credit outside contributors. Critics have thrown lots of genre names on Pierce's ever-changing sound, but none really sticks; and on Saudade, descriptors like "ambient," "post-rock," and "indie pop" still seem inadequate. GRANT BRISSEY
Mice Parade play the Crocodile Cafe with Him and Mercir at 9 p.m. Wed., July 28. $8 adv./$10.
When Caroline Herve (aka Miss Kittin) recently opened for Kompakt wunderkinder Michael Mayer and Superpitcher, throwing everyone off by dropping the (great) Ed Case 2-step remix of Gorillaz' "Clint Eastwood," she was so good she even got away with dropping "Blue Monday" at the end of her set. She has two excellent DJ mixes out already—2002's On the Road and 2003's Radio Caroline Vol. 1—both of which I suggest you buy over I Com, which is a fucking mess. With electroclash having burst like the economy, Kittin's been distancing herself in recent interviews from the template she all but perfected on tracks like "Frank Sinatra" and "Silver Screen Shower Scene." But "I Come.com" and "Happy Violentine" are throwbacks to the cocaine-and-blow-jobs mono-delivery she supposedly now abhors, evacuating emotion via the back door even as their sniggering jokes betray them. (Who knew Nico would end up being the biggest influence on female vocals in dance music this decade? Loleatta Holloway, please come home.) "Requiem for a Hit" is parody booty bass (what else could a sink-speak Euro version be?), an idea done better years earlier by the Detroit Grand Pubas. The appeal of a lot of this stuff is baffling—it's not very funny, it's not very sexy, and, in a Lil Jon world, it's certainly not very "shocking." In those same interviews, Miss Kittin stresses that DJing is her first love. It shows. JESS HARVELL
Miss Kittin plays Chop Suey with Colby B and Misha at 9 p.m. Sat., July 31. $12 adv.
All the Fame of Lofty Deeds
"Can't you picture me/Sailing on the golden sea?" asks Jon Langford in "Constanz." Sure we can, Jon—you sound like Poopdeck Pappy's Welsh cousin. That's about as nautical as it gets on the Hardest Working Man in Alt-Twang's new solo album, though. Here, the Mekons veteran and frequent Waco Brother and Pine Valley Cosmonaut has a tale to tell, kind of. Lofty Deeds is a country singer, and the album invokes his rise and fall more than it programs it out: The brisk "Hard Times" ("I'm a hard act to follow/ I'm hard as a rock/I'm a little hard to handle, some might say/It's hard to get by/ So wish me hard luck/'Cause things are getting harder every day") seems to be the character's theme song, but it's placed almost halfway into the album, followed by "The Fame of Lofty Deeds," a nifty (and, at two and a quarter minutes, brief) summation. There's also a pair of covers (Procol Harum's "Homberg" and Bob Wills' "Trouble in Mind"). Confused? Don't be—like the Mekons' "concept" albums (I [Heart] Mekons, Rock 'n' Roll, etc.), the very loose story skeleton is another device for Langford to spit wise on his usual topics: death (it's inevitable, and going by "Over the Cliff," jaunty, too); America (its promise, its role as the spoiled infant of the world, the inevitable letdown); country music (it's dead, Langford wrongly thinks); the music industry as a whole (it's bad); global politics (guess). Deeds is light on its feet, it's over in a half-hour, and it's Langford's best since the Mekons' 2002 OOOH! MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Jon Langford and the Sexy play the Sunset Tavern with Carolyn Mark, Scott McCaughey, and Jake and Jon at 9 p.m. Tues., Aug. 3. $10.