Released: Monday 13 August 2012
For Canadian musician, CFCF (real name Mike Silver) titles are everything. With largely wordless music, names of songs can easily be overlooked or ignored. They can seem like a superfluous addition to the music for the purposes of form by the artist - the piece has to be called something. Of course, this is not always so, and Exercises is testament to that. The name perfectly captures the feeling of this release. Short concise pieces, exercises in taking a theme and expressing it rather than exploring it. This mini-album also captures the other meaning of exercise, a sense of movement is felt throughout each song, in a way reminiscent of German electronic pioneers Neu!.
Even the name CFCF seems completely relevant - the call sign for Montreal's CFCF TV. This is music grounded in modernity and technology - but a modernity that is familiar and designed for all. Opening track 'Exercise One (Entry)' displays many of the ideas that are used throughout the rest of the tracks. Beginning with a mournful piano, synth drones and arpeggios are gradually added with each repetition. The piano remains the unchanging centre to the piece but the shifting background gives a sense of movement, changing the mood from sombre to optimistic.
'Exercise 3 (Buildings)' sounds like something from Phillip Glass' Glassworks. Beginning with a classical sounding piano arpeggio, bass notes are added, followed by brassy synth sounds and ultimately a pounding synth bass, similar to something you would find on Emeralds' 'Does it Look Like I'm Here.' Although the tools being used are familiar, it is CFCF's concision which makes his music unique, more direct than Glass, and not descending into the psych noiseouts that define Emeralds. It will depend on the listener's own perspective whether this is for better or worse.
The first few tracks exhibit a distinctly urban feel, sounding like soundtracks to a film about architecture. Exercises '6' and '7' on the other hand are much more relaxed. The two tracks merge into one piece, using meandering piano chords but with a warmer, earthier tone than that found earlier. The synthy drones are still present, but here they remain more sedate, hovering aroun,d adding lush textures.
As before, the pieces gradually build with more synths, with melodies layered over the top. However, this time it is markedly more relaxed. One is tempted to draw comparisons here with Silver's countryman, Tim Hecker, particularly last years Ravedeath 1972 album. Both create textural music built around a piano base. But whereas Hecker's harnesses noise and effects to create a dense feeling of emotion, CFCF restrains himself to subtly adding extra sounds and instruments without ever obstructing the piano, and always staying rooted in a melody.
This is an EP defined by being concise and tasteful in its execution. Although it's tempting to try and draw comparisons with electronic and synth contemporaries such as Oneohtrix Point Never or Emeralds, CFCF clearly has approached this from a 'pop' perspective. His influences are always quite obvious, It could be argued that it lacks any real innovation, or that it never really provides anything challenging to the listener. But this is perhaps judging it by the wrong criteria. Exercises' achievement is the ability to take these ideas and condense them into short sharp and melodic pieces.