BY MARK JENKINS
Tasteful, well-crafted but seriously derivative chilltronica, CFCF’s Outside should please fans of Steve Reich, Philip Glass and mid-1980s synth-pop — if it doesn’t annoy the ostinatos out of them. CFCF, aka Montreal’s Mike Silver, isn’t the first art-pop guy to borrow liberally from Music for 18 Musicians. (See Bowie, Eno, Tortoise, etc.) But neither is he most adept at extrapolating rather than merely reiterating.
The album opens with “Beyond Light,” an instrumental that adds pulsing electro-bass and flutey murmurings — a CFCF trademark — to cyclical riffs familiar from 40-some years of minimalism and its offshoots. But most of the tracks are actual songs, featuring the performer’s breathy, low-key voice. “Jump Out of the Train” adds Active Child’s multi-tracked backup vocals to the gentle clanging and gentler whooshing, and the result is the album’s standout track.
That doesn’t mean it’s the most accessible. Elsewhere on Outside, CFCF does a disconcertingly accurate imitation of MOR synth-pop, turning Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “Strange Form of Life” into something that sounds like an OMD B-side. “Walking the Dust” resembles an even more naive cousin of Talking Heads’ “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody),” albeit with whispery vocals. Like most of the album, it’s tranquil, amiable and very familiar.
DOWNLOAD: “Jump Out of the Train”