Intelligent dance music, that’s what they call it. Thoughtful prose, insightful lyrics, intimate revelations – and disco beats. It’s a winning combination, surely. So why is it difficult to pull off?
Silver Columns started by going under cover. For months nobody knew the exact make-up of the band, and we were left to speculate on just who was making this beautifully constructed music. Soon the cats were out of the bag – namely Fife’s Pictish Trail, aka Johnny Lynch, and Adem Ilhan, he of the Homefires festival – and the progression from folk-tinged pop to baleful electronica was complete.
One of the challenges the duo face is to balance an essentially extravert form of music with more introverted thoughts, and allowing the two extremes to exist together without sounding empty or exaggerated. That Silver Columns achieve this with room to spare says much about the thought that has gone into this well structured album, which makes a concerted play for the listener’s soul, mind and dancing feet.
Comparisons with Hot Chip are inevitable but well deserved, especially given Adem has known Joe Goddard since his teens. Both share a love of pure electronica but also two-step, if the uplifting Warm Welcome is anything to go by. They can create fragile atmospheres using little more than two microphones and what sounds like a monophonic keyboard in Brow Beaten, a hypnotic song that blossoms with every swooping falsetto.
Beneath all this is a subtle but effective quality that uplifts the music, allowing waves of euphoria to wash across songs such as the closing Way Out, an affirmative contrast to the elegiac, regretful Heart Murmurs – itself with a beautifully restrained chorus.
With its roots firmly in the 1980s but its head in the current year, this is a striking record of considerable beauty. Silver Columns show the value of thinking outside the box once in a while – and once you do, you never know what good things await.