This is the debut album by Silver Servants, created in sporadic sessions over the past four years. The massive list of contributors includes Mark Fry, Sharron Kraus, Aine O'Dwyer, Katie English (Isnaj Dui), Nick Franglen (Lemon Jelly)...I'm barely scratching the surface here. Basically everyone on Second Language and some of their friends. The music was improvised over two sessions in 2010 and 2012 according to a set of rules - each track being improvised from scratch, with the group moving on to a new song after each hour that passed. Then, finally, after some time gathering dust, the tapes were mixed and vocals were added, resulting in the heady mixture of psych-folk, krautrock, baroque, post-rock and minimal electronica found on these 12 tracks.
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Here's a curious little album on Second Language from a band you may not have heard of, Silver Servants, which actually turns out to be a loose collective of Second Language artists and their buddies, an intimidating cast which includes Mark Fry, Katie English (Isnaj Dui/Littlebow), Glen Johnson, Angele David-Guillou and Jerome Tcherneyan (Piano Magic), Nick "Directorsound" Palmer, Sharron Kraus, Aine O'Dwyer, Nick Franglen (Lemon Jelly)...you get the idea, everyone's here. Interestingly there doesn't seem to be a central character, and no one musician appears on every track.
The album started its life in 2010 when a group of Second Language artists got together for a recording session with a simple pair of rules - all the music should be improvised from scratch on the day, and once each hour has passed they moved on to another piece. Two years later a second session was arranged, where they added layers to the pieces from the initial session and came up with some more fresh ideas. Finally these instrumental tracks had vocals added and were tweaked and polished in the studio by Cherer and Johnson to create the collection you see here.
Considering the deliberate limitations they set themselves, the songs here are all pretty coherent and intricate, with the most impressive material coming in the first half of the album. 'A Crow Will Remember Your Face' is an eerie neofolk-ish number full interlocking organ melodies and eerie harmonies from Johnson, Cherer, Kraus , Zizi Kannan and Aine O'Dwyer. This is followed by a couple of church-referencing numbers 'Still Small Voice' and 'Jerusalem' - the former a piano-led Oliver Cherer vehicle, the latter a ghostly easy-listening take on the Blake poem/hymn - before another highlight 'Quam Quad Non Currant' which mixes gently looping electronics and haunting melodica with call and response between spoken and sung vocals. 'Murmurations (reprise)' impresses too with its pacey neo-baroque harpsichord and vocal counterpoint building to an Italo-horror-ish climax.
I feel like the album tails off a little in the final couple of tracks, but even the poorer parts are tasteful-but-dull rather than throwing any embarrassing disasters our way. I'd never have guessed it was semi-improvised if it didn't say in the press release.
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