Every new album that Michael Silver has released has been another firm step in a process of slow but steady deceleration, from dance to non-dance music. When we first met him, in 2009, the Canadian producer was a late visitor to the fields of Italo-disco, a synth-pop stylist who even came to collaborate – in “featuring” and remix – with Sally Shapiro, bringing us videos based on 70s cult films (Franju!). One of his goals was to reclaim the kitsch romanticism of a certain 80s synthesizer music; from Giorgio Moroder’s more “space” tunes and the work Harold Faltermeyer, to those jams with the keyboard hanging around his neck (over that white jacket) of Jan Hammer (who has increasingly been reclaimed). But like we were saying, that synth-pop refinement, slow disco and neo-Italo that was noticeable on “Continent” (Paper Bag, 2009) - his only album so far - has slowly transformed into a placid journey along the shores of ambient. His 12” on RVNG Intl. a couple of years ago, “The River”, already let us know that CFCF had another way of doing things in (which may have to do with premature aging, or with a dual quality that can only be attained by the chosen few). Although he has returned to dance sporadically, like on “Cometrue EP” (2011) and the delicious remixes of “Drifts”, “Exercises” shows us that his real value is in downtempo.
Technically, it’s an EP, although it is worth more than many of the albums that will be released this year. CFCF bases his creation on the piano - and in a dimension very similar to that of another bipolar Canadian, Chris D’Eon - doing his best to express a vein of new age music that had been latent in him. “Exercises” is philosophically close to D’Eon’s “Music For Keyboards Vol. 1”, although it is even more dynamic: his way of playing the piano isn’t as static as D’Eon. The way he handles electric keyboards and synthesizers allows him to achieve a weightless texture, like very clean glass. The notes, although they are gentle, seen to leap through an extension of sound, adorned later with synthesized bursts and voices. If we accept new age as the umbrella concept for “Exercises”, then it is the new age of George Winston or of Suzanne Ciani (who distanced herself from electronic music to embrace Impressionism), but there are more valid focal points for CFCF. For example, the second variation, “Exercise 2 (School)”, seems like it’s going to imitate the theme tune of “The X Files”, but it ends up turning into a reflection of the most naive Aphex Twin. Like the short pieces of “Drukqs”, or especially like “Selected Ambient Works II”, it’s one of those miniatures where a diamond-like piano appears at times in the midst of turbulent electronic music, lighting up the entire piece.
There are rhythmic moments on “Exercises”, like the eighth part ( “Change”), where slow, tentative beats peek out, like stealthy electro. Furthermore, in “September” David Sylvian lends his voice to the tune, giving the work as a whole a new dimension; taking us to the elegant, clean, eternal synth-pop of Japan. Beyond that - the moment and having enough spice to raise the category of the work - the mark that CFCF leaves here is as a pianist: versatile, effective, without flourishes but without mistakes. He appears to be inspired by Impressionism and Satie, like all of the new wave of self-taught pianists of the neoclassical generation, from Peter Broderick to Dustin O’Halloran. But he aspires to conquer a higher, more cosmic, and also more endearing space. If this isn’t the best piano album of the year, it is without a doubt the most original and unexpected.