The Sound in Silence label has been a consistent presence over the past few years, releasing small-run albums and EPs, each graced with a lovely Polaroid print. The releases tend to sell out quickly at source but can usually be found later at Norman Records and other related shoppes.
The latest pair presents two artists who could not be more dissimilar: the dark, drone-inflected Hessien (Maps & Diagrams’ Tim Diagram + y0t0’s Charles Sage) and the light, glockenspiel-loving Miaou. Together, they create an elegant balance.
Hessien began with a burst of activity in 2010 but has been silent since; Calcifer is evidence that the duo has remained inspired. The four-track EP is graced by a murky, underwater sheen, especially on “There Are No Coincidences”. If the title is true, Absent Without Leave (who mastered the set) is implying aural calcification. A host of instruments is caught in the morass. While a guitar occasionally rises above the mud like a fish with tiny feet, ukulele (a potential source of light) is processed beyond recognition, drowning in a sea of synths. Calcifer is far from cheerful, but it provides a cold comfort, like a bottle of wine applied to a broken heart.
On Bring the Lights, Miaou shows clear signs of progression. Gone are the vocals, guest or otherwise, that made The Day Will Come Before Long seem so haphazard; and the twee level has been reduced to a a dull peep. Each of these decisions proves to be wise, as the EP is the band’s most consistent work since All Around Us. A post-rock spice can be detected in the combination of guitar and glockenspiel, especially effective on “Airglow”, in which electric guitar gives way to acoustic midway. The suggestion of strings on “River Zephyr” lifts the sound to a higher level, while the measured closer “Water & Us” stands among the band’s best works to date.
Buy one or buy both? It depends on your mood. If you want to be prepared for anything, it might be handy to have both nearby. (Richard Allen)