The Silence - Hark the Silence

by Jeff Penczak Rating:4 Release Date:2015-11-23

Shit, where’s the cute punky chick that sounds like Taylor Swift fronting Good Charlotte? I was hoping for some punchy skater-punk from the North of England and it appears someone spiked my mp3 player with some glacially slow, post-rock, proggy doomslayers with flutes and jazz licks and, well, Ghost-meets-Jethro Tull on ‘ludes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course, but when you’ve got your heartbeat ratcheted up for a date with Livvy Griffiths from Durham and have been circling the drain with her image, spread-eagle and sucking on a lollipop, well, Ian Anderson and Masaki Batoh aren’t gonna cut it. Ah, well, c’est la vie. So who’s this Silence, anyway?

Turns out I wasn’t far off – it IS Ghost. Well, actually, it’s ex-Ghost members Batoh and keyboardist Kazuo Ogino teaming up with drummer Futoshi Okano (of the OTHER Japanese psych legends, Acid Mothers Temple) and Jan Shotaro Stigter of the painfully delicate folk duo, Jan and Naomi. Their second release this year opens with a three-part, 18-minute teaser (‘Ancient Winds’) to set the mood: haunting ...  meditative ... mysterious, and full of floating flutes, gloomy/doomy bass, ominous percussion, screaming guitars, chanting vocals repeating nothing but the title ad nauseum; all in all, rather cinematic if you’re into the Giallo (e.g., Mario Bava, Dario Argento) scene. A bit long (this probably sounds better live where you can watch the participants letting their freak flags fly), I prefer the stalking build up to the maniacal release. And the 6-minute finale (‘Part 3’) is rather superfluous unless you’re into those extended Yes and ELP keyboard workouts.

           ‘Ornament’ is an Eastern-flavoured improvisation, with flutes and acoustic guitars adding an acid folk, minstrelsy vibe. For fans of Jackie-O Motherfucker, Kemialliset Ystävät and other acid folkies who wander aimlessly for 5 or 6 minutes creating an atmosphere rather an actual “song”. But don’t fret, ‘Little Red Record Company’ reins in the excesses and is all the better for it – a pleasant, little Roxy Music-flavoured pop tune, with Batoh in full Ferryesque lounge-lizard voice. Still, some editing is in order – these songs don’t need to go on as long as they do: the shortest is just under six minutes; the longest approaches 14. Speaking of, ‘Galasdama’ is more jazzy prog posturing which segues into Sabbathian guitar pyrotechnics and strangulated Batoh utterances that may appeal to fans of Can’s Damo period – all others will be checking their watches and the line at the loo.

           ‘Breath Figure’ is an ominous, Hawkwindish spoken word piece, a la ’10 Seconds of Forever’ and ‘Sonic Attack’ (although the Japanese text may be lost on most listeners), ‘DEX 1’ (a Hawkwind title if ever I heard one!) sounds like a runaway digeridoo (Jew’s harp?) chased by screeching pterodactyls playing skronking sax over a funky backbeat. It also reminds me of The Plasmatics’ experiment in synchronicity (‘Want You Baby’) where they isolated all the musicians in different parts of the studio and let them have at and recorded and spliced together the resulting mayhem. I like the playful piano figure in the middle before all hell breaks loose, though.

           All in all, I think I’ll give Livvy a call and see what her Silence are up to and leave this to the experimental noise crowd. It's just giving me a headache.

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