Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Silent Movie - Quiet Village
SCQ Rating: 80%
OK, so you listen to ‘Victoria’s Secret’, the string-heavy soliloquy that omits neither seagull squawks nor wave crashing, and you’re understandably turned off. I mean, where do these guys get off? As schmaltzy as the worst wedding speech and laughable as it is, though, this song takes guts, flattening the emotional abscess of its orchestra for a subtle soul vocal and bass beat. And as the opening track to Quiet Village’s debut album, it’s both a mission statement of what’s to come as well as a catalyst for accusatory critics.
Their “kitsch”, as most every reviewer refers to it, is courtesy of a BBC garage-sale that afforded Joel Martin a load of library records for a lean 40 quid, and is commonly most audible at a song’s start, when whatever archive sounds being used - old Soul vinyl, Italian soundtracks - are nearly untouched (but skillfully looped) as blank-canvassed backdrops for cratediggers Matt Edwards (techno artist of Radio Slave) and Martin (music collector, DJ). Once these songs match Edwards’ dancefloor aesthetic and Martin’s cult-film clips, Silent Movie unveils its genius; a downtempo mash-up that owes as much to soul and psychedelic records as Boards of Canada is indebted to the NFB. And while it hardly breaks new ground – think of it as a slowcore appropriation of the Avalanches’ debut back in 2000 – Silent Movie suffers no shortage of rousing song ideas. Each of these twelve songs occupy their own territory righteously: the aviator-adorned weightlessness of ‘Pillow Talk’, ‘Gold Rush’s cautious path through unmapped lands and the mind-bending freak-out which is ‘Circus of Horror’ all represent a different twist to Silent Movie’s exotic yet fluid narrative. A few trips through and what was once 60s schmaltz or elevator music is suddenly a very (post)modern approach to compelling, guileless electronic music.
Many have argued that Quiet Village hardly elaborate upon their source material, saying much of the record’s charms are identical to those written by the Chi-Lites, Andreas Vollenweider, and a slew of 70s originals tampered with here. They might well be right, what do I care? These samples are not only being used legally, creatively and with the consent of those owning copyright, but Silent Movie is a gracious bow to an inspired era of underground music, tawdry and forgotten, that deserves a revival of its own. That Quiet Village openly celebrates its source muse is commendable when you consider how easily modern acts can tweak a classic to avoid the charge of plagiarism. Cause SCQ would still be writing about Mr. Vollenweider if not for this record, right?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Silent Movie has brought me back to the golden age of downtempo and turntablism – two subgenres that, at their best, forged moving narratives out of globe-trotting instrumentation and creative sampling (admittedly with some illicit help from its largely stoner-oriented fanbase). Unlike Thievery Corporation and Kid Koala - although possibly upon their shoulders - Silent Movie will thrive as a pioneer to the renaissance of such well-loved, heady endeavors. Like LCD Soundsystem benefited dance music with its high-brow hipster-isms, Quiet Village is reinstating 90s chill-out with the same well-read, millennial playfulness of music history. Loved and hated with equal rigor, this easy-listening blend of archived vinyl, dubbed-out bass, weathered disco and borrowed soul is likely the most important electronica record of the year so far.