Illuminated Manuscript is the first solo effort from Aloha vibraphonist Cale Parks; it's a flickering, vibrant album that was released in 2006 on Polyvinyl Records. Parks distances himself from Aloha's more recognizably pop sound on this record, opting instead to move into an ambient territory populated by rumbling synthesizers, vitreous strands of electronic noise, and, of course, a vibraphone or two. The result is a likeable, albeit cautious, record reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Air. Those comparisons are deceptive, as Parks is much more self-conscious and reserved than most ambient artists out there. There's an interest here in making something aurally compelling, but there's an equal interest in not alienating the listener. The songs on Illuminated Manuscript all rely on a strong, rhythmic backbone. While this provides a good deal of stability and listenability, it does tend to draw away from the album's more interesting sonic structures, like the brooding vibraphone work or the masses of synthesized bells. This tick-tockiness works best on "Late Show," which sounds like a fantastical clockmaker's workshop, but on the whole one wishes that Parks would just let go of the beat and have some fun with the more compelling elements of his instrumental battery. This isn't a bad first effort, though, and there are some nice moments on "Galaxy 8180" (catchy vocals) and "This Garden Is a Maze" (funny whistle sounds). It might be a shy little album, but it's a good collection of meticulously pieced together ambient pop nonetheless.
AllMusic Review by Margaret Reges