Review Summary: Something to observe instead of experience.
There’s something quite ironic in how this pairing have chosen to title their release. Ulrich Schnauss, a man more than qualified in the art of straining lo-fi electronics through a fine, shoegaze mesh, and Mark Peters, himself a guitarist in the shoegazing outfit “The Engineers”, are not people you would initially expect to enjoy silence. Not least because their profession rotates about disturbing this “Underrated Silence”, especially with shoegaze as a whole often expanding to fill every quiet gap available.
Ignoring the title, the album develops just as you’d expect considering the musicians’ previous works. Soft, rich synthesisers create a warm backdrop: layers so thick and distorted they tend to spill into each other, forming a fluid, ever changing ground with which the melodies can interact. Peter’s guitar takes centre stage: calmly progressing atop each piece, rippling in the haze beneath it. Percussion discretely persists in the background; vocal samples emerge from the void only to sink back in again. “Underrated Silence” is nothing if not lazy, with its tracks quietly waltzing into climax, and their tones so impossibly optimistic.
This peaceful atmosphere is paramount to truly understanding the artists’ goal: to make music that echoes the qualities of silence. “Underrated Silence” does not contain music that will surprise or challenge you; it simply swans along at its own leisure. Its sugary-sweet complexion is a constant, with the duo rarely deviating far from that tone. Sometimes it will build up to a crescendo and sometimes it won’t, the point is that you don’t care.
Except… I do care. In so much as the album’s vision becomes its greatest flaw, since while “Underrated Silence” swells to the point of bursting with its multitude of layers and textures, there’s surprisingly little to sink your teeth into. It’s a very one-sided view of a peaceful, summer afternoon with seldom to discover beyond the first listen. Forming a picture perfect snap of tranquillity, yet with the noticeable absence of any other motif or purpose it runs the risk of descending into background music alone. It remains uncompromisingly beautiful, of course, most notably in the steady unfurling of Gift Horses Mouth and the slow-motion stampede that is Yesterday Didn’t Exist, but with little to relate to in the album this beauty can do no more than pass by you with its dancing gait. As something to observe instead of experience.
It would be premature and no doubt rather cruel to dismiss the album entirely because of this one flaw, and indeed “Underrated Silence” still holds up very well in this ever critical light. Schnauss and Peters have managed to craft a thing of abstract, swelling beauty, one completely mirroring the nondescript, peaceful values of silence itself, but it falls short of any true greatness; too involved in its own values to truly connect.
Just makes things clearer. You do the same thing in essays etc. and there's no reason why you can't drag it down a few levels and use it in music reviewing as well. Anyway, quick fire off on your other points:
music= disturbing silence
guitar on the top, haze is beneath. Struggling to see the confusion with that one (although I'm not going to lie that line took a few tries to bash into shape)
the point of the album is that you don't care, but it fails to do this
After all these reviews I'm still trying to get to the point where I can assume the reader has carried along my line of reasoning without me having to reach its conclusion. I don't know, maybe I'm trying to be too clever. Thanks for the feedback, though. It's less scathing than usual, so I'll take that as I will.
Well yeh it kind of did. I'd repeat in slow motion but... text and all.
Music is in part the industry of making noises. Noises=/=sound. It's not too hard of a jump to make :/
For the second one. See the line: "forming a fluid, ever changing ground with which the melodies can interact" and link it with "Peter’s guitar takes centre stage: calmly progressing atop each piece, rippling in the haze beneath it. " The rippling is not the guitar itself, but the echo or reverberation in the music behind it.
"Except... I do care" has nothing to do with the idea behind the album, that's the reaction to it. It's a dispute/contradiction, something which you're not supposed to think given the album's direction.
No, you're missing the point and responding with far too many words
"rotates about" doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, "rotating around the idea...." maybe, but other than that.....
As for the third point, it also doesn't make a whole lot of sense to proclaim the album's point, but then renege on the idea. If you wanna talk about contradictions that's fine, but the structure of the review would work a lot smoother had you mentioned the fault before describing it. You jump from "it does this" to, "but, oh wait". It's just a little jarring
The jarring-ness (?) was deliberate, but I see where you're coming from. I overstretch myself in regards to flow, but in the end I think that's the most I can do in order to improve, especially if people like yourself point out every fault. Mr Miyagi style.
this review raises a very interesting (maybe obvious, but i've never really seen it stated) issue i have with schnauss' music. i've been getting into him recently and while i really, really like him (a strangely isolated place is, dare i say it, such great chillout music), the observation vs. experience thing is what stops me from wanting to listen to him all the time. it's very hard to explain. maybe it's just that he writes boring music but tries to captivate us with it, but i'm perfectly fine with his awesomely boring music as it is without that 'captivation'.