Quiet Village – Silent Movie [!K 7225CD UK 2008 FLAC]
Thank you to The Quietus for this review which seems to perfectly sum up Silent Movie.
The thin line between schmaltz and beauty is something musicians have had to grapple with for a while. Working together as Quiet Village, Matt Edwards of Radio Slave and his collaborator Joel Martin strike just the right balance, transforming easy listening sounds of the past into the soundtrack to the finest 3 a.m. trip home you'll have all year.
During a generation of pop where recontextualization is something we tend to take for granted. Right now I'm listening to Victoria's Secret, the first track from Quiet Village's Silent Movie, and I'm imagining other people in a similar situation squinching up their faces at how cheesily doe-eyed it must sound to them: beachside surf sounds and seagull keening, weepy strings, a sedate, molasses-flow rhythm section that consists of an almost inaudible feather-tapped drum and a snore-pace bass. It sounds like some long-forgotten slab of incidental music from a pay-for-use soundtrack library, composed in the hopes that some TV movie pulls it from the stacks to score a chaste falling-in-love scene.
Except that most of this song's structure actually comes from a hauntingly lovelorn and classic Chi-Lites ballad, 1972's The Coldest Days of My Life ...and once you know that, it gets harder to hear Victoria's Secret as strictly cheese, especially once you recognize Eugene Record's voice echoing through the tides. Silent Movie has a field day with this tweaking of the margins between extravagant easy listening and the more "proper" strains of pop and r&b, the result being a record that betrays the frequently subjective notion of what "kitsch" consists of. Quiet Village is a project of Matt Edwards, best known as tech-house auteur Radio Slave, and collaborator Joel Martin, whose pre-Quiet Village activity consists most significantly of his hand in compiling Bite Hard, a cult-classic compilation of 1970s library music from Britain's De Wolfe Studio. What they've come up with has frequently been lumped in with the Balearic revival movement, which relies in part on a sort of sun-baked, slow-moving codeine-disco vibe that (despite my best efforts) largely defies easy classification.
Most of the prime examples of this are found in the tracks that originated as 12" single sides back in 2005 and 2006, which also comprise most of Silent Movie's rhythmic pulse. The leisurely, palm-lined slow cruise of Pillow Talk lifts from select bits of the 1978 Alan Parsons Project album Pyramid and then blows out its guitar-driven downtempo AOR slickness into an even heavier, thicker sheen of ambient coke-prog. It leads cleanly into the single it was originally the 2005 B-side to, the coming-down funk of Can't Be Beat, and by slowing Trade Mark's Franco-disco Days of Pearly Spencer (also from 1978) to a woozy crawl they create a particularly tense and bleary brand of late-nite post-club slow jam, an atmosphere shared by the electric piano-driven, Captain and Tenille-monologue-appropriating dope haze of second single Too High to Move. The notable exception to all this blissful dancefloor torpor is a bit of bikers-versus-zombies drive-in-movie fare called Circus of Horror, the most uncharacteristic (and maybe the best) song on the record: in the simplest terms, it's blatant Tarantino bait that sounds like Hendrix's Band of Gypsys after developing some kind of Italian soundtrack fetish, and it's the one moment on the record where the drums not only really come alive but threaten to tumble down directly on top of you.
The funny (and problematic) thing is, a lot of these songs, especially the newer tracks, aren't that heavily altered in comparison to its subjectively tacky source material. Utopia is essentially Andreas Vollenweider's Steam Forest with some bits switched here and there to disguise its new age origins; the tribal spaghetti Western rumble of Gold Rush draws liberally from late-60s psych band Writing on the Wall's Buffalo; Pacific Rhythm basically is Ryuichi Sakamoto's version of Sister Sledge's Chic-gone-reggae deep cut You're A Friend to Me. Think of Silent Movie more as an edits and remixes record-- or even a reproduced DJ set-- than a sample pastiche, and maybe it'll feel less larcenous, though I can't imagine that the people left disillusioned by the revelation that Daft Punk didn't write the riff to Digital Love will be all that thrilled. Maybe there's a different divide to worry about here: it's not a matter of whether the music is cheesy, but whether the appropriation is. Strange how an album that invites scenesters to overcome their aversion to AOR slickness trips them up by playing against moral codes concerning authenticity and proper credit. At worst, this just makes Silent Movie a kind of stealth mix CD. At best, they've just compiled the soundtrack to the finest 3 a.m. trip home you'll have all year.
02 Circus Of Horror
03 Free Rider
04 Too High To Move
05 Pacific Rhythm
06 Broken Promises
07 Pillow Talk
08 Can't Be Beat
09 Gold Rush
10 Singing Sand
12 Keep On Rolling