Москва’s Kotä Records continues on a roll with the resurrection of Brussels duo Silk Saw, an act which seems to exist outside of time and space. It’s been nine years since the release of 8 Reports, and the new album picks up right where that one left off. Very few acts can pull off such a comeback, the most notable electronic example being Portishead a few years back. But while that band has an identifiable sound, Silk Saw prefers to revel in the unidentifiable, which as it turns out has been the key to its success.
Take for example that last effort. 8 Reports begins with percussion, synth and typewriter bell (“conductor”), then backs into an off-kilter ambient drone (“faceless”), but also contains three industrial club candidates in the unfortunately titled “Faggoted”, the more elaborate “barrel, inside” and the Mentallo and the Fixer-esque “defeated”. But there’s also a somnambulant track (“sleep will come”) resting in the center. Ever since 1994 (when they called themselves Jardin d’Usure), Silk Saw has avoided the linear, and they continue this decision in the new set.
The largest detectable shift is in the increased number of propulsive tracks. The album contains a big number of belters, some perfect as is and others that might be transformed into IDM monsters with a bit of tweaking. But more than anything, Imaginary Landscapes is an album of mood. Beginning with the string-laced overture, “Lonely Planet”, the duo re-introduces itself as a force to be reckoned with. The press release calls these “threatened violins”, which sounds about right; they seem as if they’ve been told to play or die. Closing track “Pricks” provides a mirror image, hiding its drums until the second half, like wolves in the woods heard first in their howls.
Every track contains both repetitive and non-repetitive elements, the former usually a pattern or pulse. “Torment For Some People is a Need” creates a trancelike atmosphere over its eleven minutes, with laser washes, off-kilter piano and chimes. The breakdown at 5:24 allows the organic elements to get their due, providing one of the album’s most effective moments. But the hard, driving rhythms of “Knockers” make it the album’s most obvious club candidate. In contrast, the two-part “The Decision to Exist” is 808-heavy, yet resists the tug toward accessibility. “part 1” unlocks in an angular fashion, and the drums of “part 2” stumble over themselves just as the groove is being established. Simultaneously retro and forward-thinking, these tracks represent the sound of a band that straddles centuries. We hope they won’t wait another nine years before visiting us again.
Extra credit goes to Russian street artist Grisha for the album’s evocative art, which draws the eye to a treat for the ears. The attention to detail calls attention to the unique nature of this release. (Richard Allen)
CD/Digital available now; vinyl due 13 November