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Silver Columns
Yes, And Dance Iain Moffat , June 11th, 2010 12:21

Admittedly, it may only be the mid-point of the year, but it's hard not to feel that, when historians come to discuss 2010, they're not exactly going to be lauding it as The Year Of The Guitar; it's not that no decent work's being done by an interesting range of string-slingers (after all, there are terrific albums already floating around from, say, Frightened Rabbit, Villagers and Xiu Xiu, with some truly magnificent work from School Of Seven Bells just around the corner), but the real world charts haven't exactly been noticeably twangy in recent months, there's no shortage of more electronic candidates for the year-end critical lists already, and even MTV Rocks has become a barrage of artists whose distinctions are decidedly on the nuanced side to say the least.

With this in mind, then, it's little wonder that there are performers out there starting to eschew their more traditional instrumentation in favour of a rather more technology-tweaking approach, although it is something of a surprise to find the Fence Collective's Johnny “The Pictish Trail” Lynch making such a leap, given the more quantifiably alt-folk characteristics he's refused to stray from thus far. Mind you, it's probably a slightly less quantum transition for his cohort Adem Ilhan, who did at least long work alongside folktronic fulcrum Kieran Hebden in turn-of-the-century post-rock flamekeepers Fridge and even once recorded an astonishing vocal cover of the Aphex Twin's 'Girl/Boy Song', but, still, the whole Silver Columns project, built as it is on an unlikely pairing emerging from their cheeky guess-who-we-are shenanigans, appears to be unusually avuncular even on paper.

And that's before we've even considered the album itself, which slots with a bewildering panache into the current vogue for recalling the 1980s in a manner that's all the more creative for its refusal to merely reassemble the contexts and specifics of the time. Often, there's something of a melancholy air to their work – opener 'Cavalier' is essentially an elongated sigh you can dance to, while Adem's vocals have a deadpan quality similar to Steve Mason that comes across as heartbreakingly bizarre on the high-energy frolic of 'Always On' (especially once the synths are removed from the equation and he's cut viciously adrift), and 'Columns' has a translucence that boldly recalls Foreigner's 'Waiting For A Girl Like You' even as Lynch's measure hilltop hymning loses itself in tantalisingly temperate faux bass that gives way to intriguingly incongruous baggy breakbeats and near-radiophonic transmissions. This might all lead you to believe that the jollity of the album's title is yet more misdirection, but the fact of the matter is that this is anything but an unenthusiastic enterprise. That's been visible on the few occasions they've paraded in public, and, wonderfully, it's showcased on numerous instances here too.

So 'Warm Welcome', while appearing some way into the album, otherwise lives up to its name entirely, its laserbeam arcade luminosity, bouncing-ball electronica and amiable vocal interplay rendering it something akin to Hot Chip at a barbecue. Genuinely grand finale 'Way Out' layers electro handclaps over bursts of splendidly demented neo-turntablism, charming harmonies and optimistic Kraftwerkianisms before dipping a cautious toe into mild mid-90s Europop tropical waters (and it's not their only sojourn into more recent developments, either: the sleek robo-pop of 'To Wake You''s closest cousin is Plone's 'Plock', which is a breathtaking call). Best of all, 'Brow Beaten' is the naughtily conceived offspring of Bronski Beat and Hercules And Love Affair. This would be worth the price of admission for that alone, and the fact that it is but icing here's a fabulous credit to its neighbours. Time will tell whether this is a full-blown glittery gear-change or just a beautiful one-off, but, either way, Silver Columns have built themselves a towering edifice indeed.

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