Monday, November 9, 2009
Paper Bag, 2009
Rating: ** (2/10)
The first time I heard CFCF must have been last spring when part of the Panesian Nights EP mysteriously showed up on my hard drive. I gave it a listen and though I wasn't blown away, I was reasonably impressed, especially by the club-inspired dark ambiance of "Crystal Mines." It was just an EP by an artist early in his career (one Michael Silver), and I figured by the time an LP came around, we might have something worth at least a short-term obsession.
Apparently, I was overly optimistic. Sometimes when I'm bored and often spaced out with a migraine, I pull out my keyboard, turn on some cheesy synth sound and plunk out little chord progressions and riffs with club-style rhythms. Although I have fun making dark, ominous chords bounce out in a head-bobbing rhythm, I've really never thought it was worth recording even to subject my friends and family to, let alone to put into an LP and foist on the world at large. Perhaps if I had, I'd have a small record deal and some lukewarm reviews on Pitchfork - it worked for Silver.
Yes, folks, what I'm saying is that I can write music this good in my sleep. And the kicker is, I'm really not a synth player at all. Yeah, ouch.
For one thing, I think I misunderstood the purpose of CFCF. While I thought it was experimental ambient in a dark way, this album is like electronic easy-listening, with synthesized saxophone, guitar and fucking pan pipe solos. Even when the music starts with something good - the guilty-pleasure pop of "Invitation to Love," the breaking beat and half-phrase synth lines of "Letters Home" and the sweeping dynamics of "Break-In" - he ruins it with the aforementioned fake saxophone and pan pipe shit or by just dragging it out waaaay too long. Vocals randomly pop up on a few tracks. In a pitchfork interview, Silvers said "I wouldn't consider myself a very strong songwriter or vocalist, so most of the time I try and then fail so I just don't bother." Yeah, we can tell.
The best track of the album is probably "Come Closer," one of those adorned with vocals. Though it wears on far too long, it's got more force to it. It's a much bolder, clearer statement than the rest of the album and comes closest to what I heard from Panesian Nights. Still, I can't even say that track is worth a buck to download. When surrounded by the far-less-than-half-baked monotony of the rest of the album, it's a nice break, sounding almost like a completed thought. But on its own, it doesn't have much to stand on either.
A celebration of self-indulgent rambling electronica, Continent is an album only a mother could love. Or so I hope.