, May 13th, 2014 07:32
When bands reform these days, it's tacitly (or sometimes openly) acknowledged that the primary motivation is to enjoy the payday they missed first time round or more cynically, to flog a dead horse that by rights should be left to rot in the ground. The sudden reappearance of Danish digital power rock trio Silo after 13 years of silence is that rarer type of return – despite establishing viable alternate careers for themselves in the interim (my favourite being guitarist Frederik Ammitzbøll's co-running of 'avant garde menswear label' Uncommon Creatures, Silo have got back together simply because they had more music they wanted to play.
Having released two albums on Colin Newman and Malka Spigel's Swim label at the turn of the century (the second of which, Alloy, is particularly wonderful), Silo's third album sees the band both consolidating and building on their original sound, a churning, hypnotic assembly of processed guitar loops, fuzz bass grooves and taut but supple beats – an early press release (rather quaint-sounding now) describes them as being "a rock band inside a computer". But on Work, the post rock and dub techno textures of yore have been subtly usurped by less rigid and more human elements to create a new strain of industrial psychedelia, both crushingly heavy and curiously funky.
It's a brilliant sound, the precision density of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails filtered through a blissed out MBV sensibility, producing what can only be described as 'dream rock' – it's not about velocity and attack, but angles and curves, filling the 'head like a hole' with a cornucopia of noise rather than pummelling it into submission. Yet rather than emulating the maximal, guitar-derived drones of a group like Fuck Buttons, Silo are still rooted in the dynamics and excitements of rock.
Opener 'Filaments' gradually immerses the listener into Silo's sound world, like a Boards of Canada track played through a distortion pedal, before 'Mechanics' kicks in with super crunchy guitars and bass, a slight but recurrent rhythmic shift constantly threatening to unlock the locked groove. Vocals are measured and mixed low but unnervingly present, while what sounds like a vocoder burbles in the background like a ghost in the machine. Then 'Stationary' plays perceptual games with the ears, shuddering like a flick book of somebody standing still, constantly resisting focus. The chiming guitar figure and bass loop create aural patterns that may not be there, while murmurs of wah-wah bleed through from a pre-digital age.
The human factor is ramped up on a trio of tracks that feature guest vocalists. 'Cabinn Fever' explodes out of an unnumbered ambient interlude with the juddering shriek of a robot assembly line suddenly starting up, and functions as a formidable but accommodating counterpoint to the flow of High Priest and M. Sayyid from Antipop Consortium. In fact, this could be a track by avant-hip hop compatriot El-P, complete with incongruous vibraphone. The squelchy machine funk of 'Power Points' features the keening R&B vocals of Maria Hamer-Jensen, and nods to the claustrophobic headspace of Massive Attack's Mezzanine (an album that's been poorly-served by posterity, and doesn't get credited nearly enough for the influence it's had). And then '0' confirms that MBV influence, the beatific ooohs of Mew's Jonas Bjerre and (relatively) sweet melody finding a place of safety inside the controlled detonations of Silo's sound.
Elsewhere, 'A Hedge Is A Lance', 'Generals' and the title track dig deeper into the power of repetition, with perhaps the most obvious precedent for this branch of sonic exploration being Loop circa A Gilded Eternity (and particularly 'Arc-Lite', the jagged peak and trough of the riffs creating a compulsive circularity rather than the linear repetition of, for instance, motorik-based rock. Finally, album closer 'The Inexorable Sadness Of Pencils' (!) stretches out towards the cosmic, its skyscraping guitar underpinned by the chuggachugga of Hendrix's 'Voodoo Child' before cutting dead.
Whenever I've raved to people in the past about Silo, I've always said they'd have been massively influential if anybody had actually heard them at the time. And now suddenly here they are again, sounding just as fresh and relevant as they did all those years ago. For anybody still excited by the possibilities of the guitar, Work is essential listening.