Sunday, 1 January 2012


First blog of the year. A review of my latest LP called BUNNY by The Silent Ballet:

Are you tired of hearing that Simon Scott used to drum for Slowdive during that band's peak? Me too; it’s been ages since then, and in the ensuing years, he has forged an engaging path as a solo artist, capturing a new, tangible sense of magic and beauty. On last year’s excellent Traba EP it was clear that the promise of something special was brewing in the Simon Scott camp, and Bunny is that huge and exciting leap forward.

“Honeymoon” is a gateway into Bunny's topography. The track recalls the dreamy, wintry vibe of Scott's previous full-length Navigare with windblown symphonics, aqueous guitar and what sounds like a harp played inside ice. As I typed that description, “Honeymoon” changed identities several times as if to discount my words and protest, “You don’t know me!” That’s how each track behaves on Bunny, no matter its mood: each is a moving target. And much like I am acknowledging you, dear reader, Simon Scott's wry compositional tactics pluck the passive listener up and deliver him to an alternative realm of awareness.

As in common in Scott's solo work, each song can be extracted and enjoyed out of context. This seems to be uncommon in ambient music, but the effect here is that Scott’s experimental sound collages come across as songs instead of soundscapes. This gives the album a discernable direction and arc. Instead of being buried in the ether, the songs are the ether - crackling, growing crystals, gasping for air. The textures that form are dynamic and moody, their origins mostly stemming from real instruments like guitar and piano.

A bending telecaster meets sinking cello passages in “Gamma,” lending the track the vibe of a Western scored by Svarte Greiner. This shadowy passage contrasts greatly in approach to the ensuing “Drilla,” in which a grossly distorted guitar loses its mind and a dreamy shoegaze band glides in to carry it to a vertiginous ending. The segments on Bunny in which the drums appear are surprisingly in step with the rest of the “ambience” and in fact are one of the driving forces on the album. A big highlight arrives early in “Betty” (the alter-ego of “Bunny?”) as a simple and jazzy rhythm section sets a curious tone pool for processed guitars, field recordings and sonic weather to frolic in. At the heart of the song lies a detectable madness of gaseous guitar caterwauls and heavy splashing cymbals. This sets the stage for the rest of the album, blowing the roof off with a mighty, living energy.

Bunny does not lend itself easily to association. It’s nocturnal and theatrical, but permeated by elements of grit and humor. How many times can one say "Bunny" with a serious face? The album's experimental teeth excite the senses, while its rock moments provide grounding, demonstrating that Scott's sound is still evolving. It’s almost like shoegaze is alive and well again, but with the technology and maturity of of a new era to bring it to a higher level.

There is something wonderfully satisfying about music that at first appears “dark” or “weird” and ends up expressing a genuine wonder and happiness. Those familiar with Erik K. Skodvin’s Miasmah imprint expect its releases to feature the gloomy or the fringe - yet while that is where this record takes place, it succeeds not by wallowing in the darkness, but by opening doors to the embers of optimism, proving that within the chilly halls of our own horrors, a fire can still be stoked.
Score: 8/10

-Nayt Keane

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