VA: The Silence Was Warm Vol. 2
Symbolic Interaction

Nothing but contributors' names and track titles accompany Symbolic Interaction's latest compilation, but the double-disc's title, The Silence Was Warm Vol. 2, perhaps functions as a sufficient indication of the release's character with nearly all of the twenty pieces being of the gentler persuasion, and delectably so. Certainly Hiroshima-born Kashiwa Daisuke's elegant opener “Coto,” five gorgeous minutes of solo piano playing, establishes not only a beautiful mood but sets the bar high for the tracks that come after. The range of styles is broad, and it's a global affair, too, with many artists from Japan, naturally, contributing but figures from the US (Kentucky) and the UK (Leicestershire), Belgium, Napoli, Greece, and Berlin appearing too.

No doubt purely by coincidence, the strongest tracks place either piano or guitar at their centers. An early highlight is Bitcrush's (n5MD head Mike Cadoo) “A Place Of Exits,” a dreamy, guitar-centered blend of post-rock and shoegaze; a plangent electric guitar melody courses repeats over the song's midtempo lilt, with strings adding drama and intensity during the song's second half. Also memorable is Yellow6's (Jon Attwood) “Kulturhuset” which exudes desolate, lonely character in its ever-so-delicate electric guitar playing and is powerful in an understated way. The almost nine-minute running time gives Attwood sufficient time to increase subtly the piece's intensity, so much so that its distorted guitar component emerges almost subliminally. euphoria's wistful waltz, “December” is likewise lovely in its deployment of lyrical electric guitar playing. Absent Without Leave (Athens, Greece-based George Mastrokostas) also contributes a pretty, stately ballad in a hybrid ambient and post-rock style with electric guitars the dominant voice (“Following a Trembling Star”).

Picking up where Daisuke leaves off, David Newlyn, recording artist as well as manager of October Man Recordings, contributes a sterling piano piece of his own (“Always Drawing Pictures,” augmented by electronic atmosphere and field elements) which complements the album's theme perfectly. Piano is also the central voice in phon°noir's (Matthias Grübel) lilting “Untitled Miniature #2” but it's by no means the only one, with percussive clatter, guitars, and electronics also dotting the tune's path. In its marriage of pretty piano melodies and electronic sweetener (synthesizers, beats), Cheju's (Wil Bolton, co-owner of Boltfish Recordings) “November” offers a refined example of his electronic-acoustic sound. A collagistic potpourri of voices, electronic flourishes, and head-nodding swing, Quiroga (Walter Del Vecchio)'s “Capolinea” proves to be a welcome addition to the oft-beatless collection.

Elsewhere, Ontayso (U-cover's Esther Santoyo and Koen Lybaert) adds its signature ambient dub-techno fingerprint to the collection with the restlessly churning “Ghostrun,” while Offthesky (Jason Corder) sprinkles found sounds, field elements, and natural instrument sounds (bass, guitar, flute, percussion) over a crawling blues rhythm in the ultra-atmospheric “Geist Heist of Tomb Room 18.” The sweeping, rhythmically forceful electronica of Lowriders Deluxe's (electronic producers Mark Streatfield, Simon Thomas, Clive Burns, and Joseph Auer) “Dreams of the Offworld Colonies” proves memorable, as does Moskitoo's (Sanae Yamasaki) “Melting Universe,” a peaceful, sound-sculpted aviary of tinkling keyboards, whirring electronics, and whispered vocals. Tracks by Naono and Melorman (laid-back melodic electronica in “Seems Like The Place”), d_rradio (“Nothing Like Home,” a placid pool formed from gentle streams of flutes and electronic waves), and Pawn (Hideki Umezawa) (chattering electronic noises flutter over glistening piano and synthesizer melodies in “Bird Cage”) also appear, with the collection's only questionable moments coming from Yaporigami, whose “Mist” oddly juxtaposes gleaming music box melodies with the rat-tat-tat of skittering beats, and Cheekbone, whose closing mix of widescreen ambient and funky beat elements “Remembrance” exemplifies little of the subtlety and nuance cultivated so methodically in the preceding tracks. Neverthless, the weak moments are few on this consistently satisfying and eclectic compilation from the Japan-based Symbolic Interaction imprint.

December 2008