If “CFCF” sounds familiar, it could be per Michael
Silver/CFCF’s DJing, or his remixing of tracks by The Presets, Crystal
Castles, Owen Pallett, or Sally Shapiro. For someone who’s unfamiliar with
the Montreal-based composer and electronic technician, hot spots of interest
can arise from his ambitions and influences. His last album, The River, was inspired by Werner
Herzog’s film, Fitzcarraldo (and,
by extension, one assumes, the work of ‘70s trip-meisters Popol Vuh).
Promotion for Exercises mentions
other associations and influences that tend to raise the pulses of
Progressive and/or Electronica junkies: Philip Glass! Ryuichi Sakamoto! Peter
Gabriel! David Sylvian!
Researching the work of a heretofore-unknown artist can
raise expectations to an absurd degree. Perhaps the best approach is that of
scanning said artist’s history, rep., and influences/associations, then
proceeding from a naif-like position.
About 10 plays into its 26 primarily ambient minutes, Exercises proves itself to be
well-constructed, sophisticated, relaxing, and pleasant. Whether manifesting
as the measured piano notes with smoky swirls of electronic ambience of
“Exercise #1 (Entry)” or the looping cadences of “Exercise # 4 (Spirit),”
which gets close to Sakamoto’s hypnotic majesty, Exercises is… nice. A few moments of more lucid beauty, as on
“Exercise #6 (December),” hint at where CFCF might venture if he went further
into feeling, rather than moving on to the next track after four-or-less
minutes. In fact, No. 6 would be a dream segue after Little Dragon’s “Twice.”
CFCF seems most authentic on “Exercise #7 (Loss),” which effectively blends a
vaguely Oriental atmosphere with some of Popol Vuh’s sense of movement and,
one hopes, Silver’s feelings and/or musings.
Serenity is an often undervalued commodity. That Exercises often fades so completely
into the background, or one’s consciousness, could mean it’s being marketed
in the wrong genre. It might do better in the hands of a new age hawker of
peace and well-being. As progressive electronica, it’s a bit of a snore.
While quiet piano music (with or without electronica) can be profusely
evocative, in this case it’s too much like the short drizzle – with a couple
of surprising, albeit brief rainbows —
that disappoints when the forecast has called for a nice, steady downpour.
DOWNLOAD: “Exercise No. 6 (December),” “Exercise No. 4 (Spirit)” MARY LEARY