(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recording review - Silencio, The Politics of Lonely (2013)

Soft focused and saturated, an enchanting taste of memory

There is a moment of clarity when will and intent drop away, a moment that exists outside of time. Buddhists call it satori. On The Politics of Lonely, Julien Demoulin and Silencio circle that point, trying to intuit its shape. But they recognize that the surest way to approach it is to let go of the search and drift idly, letting the currents carry them. Dreamy and relaxed, the album is a trance journey that skirts the edges of space music, New Age and experimental post-rock. This new album is more rhythmically engaged than the band’s last release, When I’m Gone (2012), but still aims for a hypnogogic state on the borderlands between sleep and consciousness.

The pieces are evocative, often sounding like they’d pair well with short videos—“The City” has a shimmery underwater feel that could serve as the soundtrack for an old film loop. It’s easy to imagine the soft focus and saturated colors of home-shot Super 8. All the action onscreen would be silent and the music would rest upon it with the distance and detachment of memory. Maybe this is the loneliness indicated by the album title, but, if so, it’s a thoughtful remove. The reminiscence is split by staccato piano stutters that suggest a set of hidden meanings that never quite coherently connect. The second time through, the song is caught in an eddy of navel-gazing. The languorous flow is distracted by the glistening ripples, by worlds of possibilities.

The songs on The Politics of Lonely are anchored by Demoulin’s guitar and Bernold Delgoda on percussion, along with Nicolas Lecocq on keys. The guitar and piano take turns leading, while Delgoda’s drag beat rhythms ensure that any progress is slow and measured. Synthesizers and electronic treatments flesh out the pieces, adding an ambient vibe that meshes with the reverberating melodies. Several of the tracks also feature Lénina Epstein on bass, most notably “Old You” and “Bridges”. This latter tune follows in Pink Floyd’s footsteps, borrowing a little from both Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. A looped guitar figure slowly sways from one chord to another while Epstein’s bass swoops between the two root notes and the drums groove along lazily. The piece seems content to wander from pole to pole, but then it comes to a halt as if blocked. The guitar probes with single notes, as if searching for a way around. The drums stumble along as the other instruments make their tentative forays. The rising swell of synths signal a change in perspective and a crystalline path forward is revealed. It’s not clear where it will lead and the moment freezes on the brink of a decision.

The album is enchanting as it explores world after world, traveling to the hazy heart of Limbo or mapping the drifting boundaries of unknown dream dimensions. Each track is a meditation, where a different mantra reigns. The universal truths they reveal are found in the rolling waves of synthesizers and guitars cloaked in echoes. On repeated listening, Delgoda’s percussion stands out as the distinguishing element. His nuanced playing magnifies the differences in mood and keeps Silencio from slipping into any single genre. His structure pulls the album away from the gravity well of space music and pushes it in jazzy and progressive directions

How close do they come to enlightenment? As close as the heat shimmer wash of a desert sky or as far out as taking mushrooms and watching dust motes dance in the sunlight.

(This review first appeared on Spectrum Culture)

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