The Silent Committee - Staring At The Sea

Owain Paciuszko 11/09/2010

Rating: 4/5

The third record I've reviewed by Chris Fordham, aka The Silent Committee, opens with the beguiling beauty of the title track, a sombre and careful piano played over careful bass notes, timid metronomic hi-hat and swooshes of ambient sound. It encapsulates that feel of being pensive and looking out across the ocean as the sun goes down, but that's alwys been Fordham's gift, he's masterful at creating a mood that you can relate to even in his music's more opaque moments. Here peppering his soundscape with smartly placed creaks and distant hints of life that feel indicative a thoughtful and self-reflective mind.

Descent contrasts its subtle opening atmospherics against a heart-beat, it builds subtly and gradually, aptly like a tentative journey down a dark staircase into something unknown and terrible. It drifts into Regime which whistles and rattles like distant train tracks, it's glitchy drum-beat and synths are somewhat reminiscent of John Powell's soundtrack work, fluttering like violence about to break out. Instead we jump to Lullabye which is a massive departure for the record, electric piano and finger-picked guitar interweaving with sleepy sweetness, it's practically folk and is brilliantly jarring in a minimalist kind of way! But it's representative of Fordham's diverse musical work outside of this project; his work under his own name is eerie singer-songwriter with an androgynous Thom Yorke via Elliot Smith vocal, as part of quartet Enki he creates psychedelic rock which creates a strange bridge between Kula Shaker and The Charlatans, and beyond this he peforms as a musician for other artists.

Disappear gathers together various building atonal calls and sounds, like a pack of animals howling out across mountain ranges it's both electronic and natural, Fordham creating depth to his tracks with considerable skill. Meanwhile Broken Dreams feels like a more traditional creation; a simple piano line emphasised by deep, portentous keys and bright synthetic strings. Colours, for half its running time, is a very subtle and strange track, a microscopic sound reverberating behind a thick layer of ambient sound, before a two-note bass line and drum beat enter. It lacks the progression of other tracks, and in a way it's gear change into something a little straight-forward lacks the excitement of some of Fordham's other shifts in direction.

Penultimate track Rose has a certain climatic stride, like a fallen hero getting to his feet as if composed by Philip Glass via Ennio Morricone. It has a story built into its sound without ever dictating it to the listener, feeling, as a result, like an excerpt from a larger motion picture score; elements such as a the strings, guitar and vibes feeling like they've brought together three different themes into a final arrangment. Its closing piano refrain is especially inspiring. Final track Promise again is reminiscent of a film score, unfortunately it feels - to start with - like a direct lift from John Murphy's brilliant soundtrack to 28 Days Later, and aside from the twittering hi-hats and gradual introduction of electric guitars and bass, this familiar core remains, whilst the surrounding elements push Fordham into a somewhat lacklustre territory especially in comparison to the preceding eight tracks.

The Silent Committee have once again produced another formidable record, almost every track is arranged brilliantly and surprisingly, and though the sound is - to some extent - ultimately quite minimal, the various elements of each song are introduced with masterful timing and a depth of production that renders them more vivid and exciting than most bands with bloated memberships. However, at the same time The Silent Committee seem to be stuck in a bit of a holding pattern, their music not taking the leaps and bounds it needs to, comfortable to tinker with ideas in a comfort zone of music. That's no bad thing, I eagerly await hearing what Fordham crafts next, but I can't help but hope he does draws from his diverse influences and projects and makes something totally unexpected.