September 18, 2006

Catching Up with Silber Media

This weekend was hot, sultry, steamy, stormy, rainy, gray, depressing, and utterly wonderful. I spent the weekend catching up on many of the wonderful new releases from Silber Media, a label that specializes in music that fits the descriptions mentioned above. In a way, their style seems to be the crossing point between the esteemed experimental label Kranky and goth/darkwave innovators Projekt. Sure, you might not be familiar with most of the bands on the label, but please don't let obscurity be a barrier to experiencing these wonderful records....

Plumerai is a bit of a different kind of band for Silber, in that it's a pop band. Okay, it's a pop band that's more influenced by Portishead, The Sundays, Lush, and other bands from that early-90s Britpop era. Not that they're Britpop, but they've definitely got that sexy, moody sound thing down. Res Cogitans is a four-song EP, but those four songs are so substantial and meaty, you're left both wanting more and feeling quite satisfied. I really, really dig the sexy singing style of Elizabeth Ezell. All four songs are interesting, and all of them are new favorites, but I really dig the seven-minute "Avernal" and the shimmery, should-be-a-hit "Illuminata." Great music, and hopefully the promises delivered here will be followed through next year with their forthcoming LP.

Alan Sparhawk's solo debut, Solo Guitar, is, indeed, a true solo release, as it only features him playing, well, solo guitar. This no-frills concept is also a no-frills collection, with songs that glisten in reverb, noise, and drone. Musically speaking, the music found here is not unlike the music found on Low's former label Kranky. Truth be told, the record contains two extremely long compositions, and the rest are short, brief numbers, but those songs are just as good, such as the opening "How The Weather Comes Over the Central Hillside." This is true ambient music; it simply falls and fits into the background, and you can easily forget that you're listening to a record while listening to it. It's also a very, very narcotic record; it's easy to slip into a woozy state while listening to it. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? It really depends on your point of view. Personally, I love it, even if there's really not a lot to say about it.

Goddakk is the project of Plumerai's Martin Newman, but it sounds nothing like Plumerai. monuments to a lost age a complex collection of dense, electronica-based compositions. For music that is seemingly difficult, it's also amazingly easy on the ears. The songs appear to be a blend of loops and guitars and synths, and even though the music is dense, there's a pleasure to be found within the soundtrack-like songs inside. Comparisons to bands like Aphex Twin and Coil are not without merit, though Goddakk never gets as weird as either. Best moment: the wonderful, Robin Guthrie-esque "Opened," which, appropriately, opens the record.

Vlor is Silber's This Mortal Coil-like supergroup, featuring members of the roster in collaboration with label head Brian John Mitchell. Joining him in the jam-sessions are Rivulets' Nathan Amundson, Jessica Bailiff, Aaartika's Jon DeRosa, Remora's Jesse Edwards, and Lycia's Mike VanPortfleet. The music found on a fire is meant to burn is mostly instrumental, all guitars, and fits nicely between the folk/rock/drone stylings of the collaborators. At times the music is rough, such as on "Houses Not Homes" and "New Machine," other times, it's extremely hypnotic, such as on "Wires" and the rare vocals of Bailiff on "Suncatcher" makes for a nice treat amongst the focus on instrumental acumen. This is mood music for the thinking man; it's never too dull, never too flat, even though it is mainly an instrumental collection. Best moment: the gorgeous ambience of "Days Like Smoke," where Mitchell and Mike VanPortfleet turn in a Lycia-like soundscape that's extremely lush and utterly beautiful.

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