Album Review: CFCF – The River EP

[RVNG; 2010]

When Continent dropped last year, people started picking up their ears and paying attention to CFCF. Despite gaining initial fame from his remixing work, he surprised many with a solid and greatly enjoyable debut album showing he had the skills to create his own catchy numbers full of desirable hooks, thrilling crescendos and solid beats. But tucked away at the end of the album was the track “Half Dreaming Reprise” where the man behind the moniker Michael Silver turned his widescreen 80s chasm of joy into a tense and peculiar succession of carefully ticking beats and synths. It almost beautifully wraps up Continent while also unspecifically hinting at something new on the horizon.

And what a change: Silver has seemingly reinvented himself from a man stuck in feverish globe spanning ’80s dream to one who wants to get back in touch with nature and make every sound from scratch. Where you once could have busted a move to a track like “Monolith” or “Big Love,” you’re more likely to be inclined to take in a beautiful landscape while listening to the songs on The River.

The key word I keep saying to myself when listening to this EP is “natural.” Near enough everything on The River sounds like it was created with real instruments and not from a MIDI keyboard. On “Upon The Hill” numerous electric guitars weave between saintly vocals and a slowly thumping beat. It’s easy to picture Silver getting into the song, strumming away with his head down as the song builds to a gratifying crescendo. Opening track “Before and After Light” begins with a looping acoustic picking as he adds unobtrusive drums to the mix. Even though it’s the synths that make the track, the way they seep into the proceedings is so natural and goosebump inducing you barely care he’s stepped aside from a fully natural palette.

Looking at the track titles it obvious to see where Silver’s inspiration came from and it’s just as easy to picture a serene landscape to match the music. The EP’s title track sounds much like a vicious flow of water passing by, creating an unnerving kind of ambience and making the crescendo in the middle of the song all the more surprising. “Frozen Forest” is appropriately suited with chilly synths and glimmering repeating noises, like driving by a huge wooded area after a snowstorm as the melting ice catches the sun through your car window. Its cold feeling seems to kind of recall Fever Ray though less immediately disconcerting most likely due to the absence of Karin Drejar’s haunting vocals to catch you off guard.

Silver hasn’t completed dispensed with his past self though. The most immediate recognizable attribute from Continent is the bouncy piano that appears on “It Was Never Meant To Be This Way” (a title that suggests perhaps this change in sound is just as surprising for Silver as it is for the listener). As the song goes on the piano seems to evaporate into its ghostly surroundings, washed away with airy ambience. Closing track “Orage” is the other vague nod to times and sounds past as wonderfully resolving synth lines circle patiently around each other. Even though the sounds are computerized there’s a strangely natural feel to them, like some sort of high pitch noise a thriving forest emits condensed into carefully executed tones.

The EP doesn’t falter per se but it my mind seems to wander come the middle section. “Frozen Forest” is a pleasant number as described above but it doesn’t stick in your mind like the other tracks do possibly because it doesn’t really offer anything as fresh and surprising sounding as the other tracks. But none of these tracks feel like they are set. The remixes included on the digital release of the EP show just how malleable the content is here, sounding like completely new compositions with just fragments on the original source material. Nonetheless, after two mildly interesting mixtapes and a kind of unneeded remix EP earlier this year, the fresh and original sound of The River is surprising enough to make it worth investing time in. Listen to it along side Continent and you could be convinced the album and the EP are works by two different artists. If I’m to interpret The River like I did Continent then the focus goes on that final track “Orage.” Considering the word “Orage” refers to a type of storm and the track fades out with some rainfall pattering away, you wonder if we’re next going to be treated to the tempest itself or the aftermath of the storm.