Paper Bag Records.
SCQ Rating: 81%
2009’s Continent felt at once out of time and perfectly suited to the year’s turning fashions: Balaeric, old school analog beats and even some hints of chill-wave. The concoction fit together like a twelve-piece puzzle but in the absence of an oversized ego, CFCF mastermind Michael Silver’s grab-bag of influences almost came off as too easy, too slick. Even now, the records best moments – arguably some of the best electronic gems heard in 2009 – battle against neighbouring songs that, while just as mature, seem to dilute Continent’s overall statement.
Michael Silver needed a bigger persona in order to pass off Continent’s ambitions as more than simple generosity. Here, on Exercises, the trappings of artistic ego fall in Silver’s favour. The 24-year-old beatsmith remains as veiled behind his compositions as before but with a tighter, low-key focus, this new album nails a special chemistry. Democratically split between Philip Glass styled piano explorations and Gamelan-tinged electronic pieces, Exercises works on a higher level emotionally than its predecessor – and in roughly half of the run-time.
Traces of his other influences remain, and he’s reached back into early synthesizer tones for a few early 80s documentary vibes, but ultimately beat-oriented tracks like “Exercise 2 (School)” and “Exercise 8 (Change)” borrow unique character from their cautious neighbours. Occupied by tidy piano chords and thick swathes of synth, “Exercise 1 (Entry)” and “Exercise 6 (December)” seem skybound, with Silver’s ivories descending like snowflakes against a black canvas. The mini-album’s sure to flex its approach enough to supply at least one stunner – “Exercise 5 (September)”, complete with subdued vocals and a gliding momentum – but it acts less like a dancefloor hit than a euphoric centerpiece to an otherwise somber walk through town.