opinion by DORIAN MENDOZA
For the past four years, Mike Silver, under the moniker CFCF, has created a noteworthy blend of innovative electronic music. The successes of his first album, Continent, were based in locating a tempered, yet unique voice in the swaths of smart producers working today. And while he still exudes a stellar confidence of his ambient compositions, his second album Outside comes forth in a more structured pop blueprint.
Silver has described that Outside was the root of spending so much time on the road, where the movement of life beckoned the desire for stability. It’s easy to see where this calling led Silver, as his crafting has become more structured and formulated, but in it perhaps there has been a loss of the dynamism that marked his earlier releases. And there’s the topic of the (gradual) shift in sound that Silver has chosen to produce. Outside comes through straight from the darker side of 1986, complete with windy, reverb laden synth and percussion white blazer guitar solos, and a tribalesque Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins veil upon the whole thing.
Unlike Silver’s work, his own vocals take a leading role. Not the most capable of vocalists, Silver adds to the atmosphere, and not to the most effective of results. That being said, his cover of Bonny “Prince” Billy’s “Strange Form of Life” is beautiful in its haunted, full-sounded solemnity, where Silver compliments the soaring melodic synth breaks with quiet, bare, ruminations. But closer “Walking in the Dust”’s whispered verses are awkward instead of ethereal, and unintentionally subjugate the hazy moonlit tone of an otherwise beautifully delicate track; in the hands of another, more capable voice, the song may have come together.
Opener “Beyond Light” is the proper litmus test to gage your interest in a producer like CFCF. Its repetitive undercurrent of drum machine and whiny synth set the stage for an impressive array of supplemental instrumentation – including wooden flutes, sub bass and taiko drums – that dance and wash through in a wave of cloudy sound; its tracks like these, in addition to album cuts “Jumping Out of the Train” and “Find,” that showcase Silver’s strengths as a producer and songwriter.
The most apt description of Outside may be the track title “The Forest at Night” as more often than not listening will conjure thoughts of some banal enchanted wood, moonbeams shooting through the leaves. “A Forest at Night” is also Silver’s most effective track in terms of his goals of an artistic rendering of stability in an otherwise turbulent and shifting world. The song’s stillness is calculated, yet natural, and slowly builds to great result. While the rest of Outside may not deliver in such a manner, it still showcases one of North America’s more unique and talented producers on his own terms. [B-]