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Alexis Taylor - Silence Music Album Reviews

Alexis Taylor - Silence Music Album Reviews
With sparse arrangements and a lyrical focus on hearing loss and mortality, the latest solo album from the Hot Chip vocalist is a solemn and moving collection.

Alexis Taylor’s voice makes you root for him. It’s high-pitched and delicate, yet also scrappy: the sound of a boy from the wrong side of the tracks learning that he can finally show his sensitivity, having outgrown his bullies. The friction between Taylor’s persona, lyrics, and delivery has always been part of what makes his art so compelling. Bouncing along to the laddish antics of his long-time group Hot Chip, singing about playing Xbox or professional wrestling, Taylor’s immaculate phrasing and gossamer tone catch us by surprise.

The English singer is now in his early forties, with a solo career that slowly outpaces the celebratory dance music of his main band. While Hot Chip continues to fine-tune its already-pristine style, Taylor has taken his own releases as an opportunity to dabble in new settings and slower tempos. For his sixth solo full-length, Silence, he scrubs away all traces of exploratory splatter. It isn’t his first “back-to-basics” record—2016’s Piano was even more stripped-down, and Silence shares that album’s conceptual bent. This time, though, the music never seems like an exercise in simplicity, but instead an exposition of Taylor’s strengths, namely his expressive vocals: It’s his first solo release that feels driven by necessity, not experimentation.

Taylor recorded many of these songs while navigating lockdown’s innate privacy void, singing softly into his iPhone at night so as not to wake his family. He had to incorporate contributions from musicians remotely—upright bassist Sam Becker, trumpeter Kenichi Iwasa, and harpist Rachel Horton-Kitchlew provided backdrops of string and bass—and Iwasa composed some of the horn parts without hearing the existing tracks. The past year-and-a-half has been chock-full of anecdotes like these, but Taylor also hewed Silence’s sharp focus from a less-widespread hardship: In 2019, he developed tinnitus, a ringing sound that imperils one’s ability to experience silence.

The condition adds immediate pathos to his lyrics. “Silence was my sparring partner,” he sings in a naked falsetto on the ballad “Death of Silence.” “Silence, my only friend/Never again will I experience silence/I’m haunted by the death of that friend.” Considering Taylor’s reputation for cheeky asides, this forthrightness is surprising, and it also sets his album apart in the world of singer-songwriter projects. Plenty of musicians have made records about knocking on death’s door and empathizing with other people’s illness, while others have changed their approaches to writing and recording as a result of auditory problems: Neil Young’s tinnitus informed the relative tranquility of 1992’s Harvest Moon, which shares Silence’s mid-life mournfulness. Taylor’s decision to treat hearing damage itself as a subject, though, feels rare.

Still, the record is never purely confessional. Its scope is wide-ranging, handling silence and its absence as a springboard for a range of subjects. Over swells of orchestration, Taylor references anechoic chambers, moments of silence, and the consequences of remaining silent in response to violence. Since they serve as a reminder that life comes with unwanted consequences, chronic conditions can put you in conversation with death, and Silence is suffused with a recognition of the end. On the nursery rhyme-esque “I Look to Heaven” and the skyscraping opener “Dying in Heaven,” Taylor grapples with Christianity’s promise of an afterlife, while “Strange Strings” describes music as an eternal force, trapped in people’s finite bodies. Hot Chip’s songs have mythologized electronic music’s embrace of repetition, but Taylor explores repetition through more old-school motifs here—the title track, for example, is another rendition of “Death of Silence,” giving the album an evident frame.

“I was melting away/Just melting away/When you played,” Taylor sings on the plaintive highlight “Melting Away.” In the past, he might have peppered this image of someone listening to music with references to fancy gear or nods to heroes like Stevie Wonder or Prince. But this time, there are no quips to separate us from Taylor’s emotion. His voice is like a one-man choir against the grave. Dispensing with the irony and bombast that always seemed essential to Hot Chip’s work, this solemn collection places the onus on Taylor’s singing. A voice, after all, endures: It might be what we’ll pine for when the ringing stops and the silence resumes.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Alexis Taylor - Silence Music Album Reviews Alexis Taylor - Silence Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, September 27, 2021 Rating: 5

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