Silence Kit – Pieonear

Silence Kit

First, a little background on Silence Kit: the band is from Moscow, Russia (I think there’s a band of the same name from the US); it features five core members plus a few friends; its instrumentation includes “ice guitar,” cello, “two-faced guitar,” and “ghost guitar”; its album Pieonear has only three songs and yet its running time is about 81 minutes. Oh, and two of those three songs have almost exactly the same name, differing only in spacing: “Lemonsmellstreet” opens the album and “Lemon Smell Street” closes it. You’re probably thinking this is some sort of put-on, some sort of in-joke shared between some folks who are too clever for their own good.

Honestly, though, this album should be taken seriously. It’s incredibly diverse and accomplished. It’s also almost uncategorizable because it covers so much ground. Easy reference points would be Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You Black Emperor. Those points will tell you part of the story and give you some idea of where Silence Kit is coming from. It won’t prepare you as much for the times when Silence Kit sounds like Queens of the Stone Age or the Standard, or Tortoise, or maybe Shipping News. And with the cello, sometimes it veers into Rachel’s or Telegraph Melts territory. There are passages that become so ambient and ethereal that they barely exist at all, in the vein of Dry Stone Feed by Main.

These three tracks would probably have been 10 tracks on anyone else’s album. That is, each of these songs could have been divided into a few solid, standalone pieces. In fact, some of the within-song transitions jar you a little, as though the band took separate recordings and just put them back-to-back in the same song – maybe obscuring the transition a little with some guitar laid over top. During “Psychoparasite,” for instance, there is a section of noise (thankfully measured in seconds rather than minutes) that comes from nowhere and joins two otherwise distinct songs into sections of a single, 38-minute opus. The noise sounds a lot like “The Sifter” from Bastro’s Sing the Troubled Beast, if you can remember that “song.”

These pieces are essentially instrumentals, where there are no lyrics but only a few words (some of which are, believe it or not, “lemon smell street” – the basis for two of the song titles). The fact that they are instrumentals makes it easier to see how the band is able to seamlessly mix multiple songs into a single track and have it work this well. “Multiple songs,” yes, and multiple styles and approaches in each.

Everywhere, the musicianship and production excel without calling attention to themselves (remarkably, much or all of Pieonear is reputed to have been recorded in home studios). The band isn’t into flashing its chops, but its players obviously know what they’re doing. The long ambient passage in the middle of “Psychoparasite” seems to give the band a bit of a breather, and if indeed the entire track were actually recorded in one sitting it’s easy to understand why these guys might have needed a break.

At times very heavy, at times completely ambient, at times melodic, at times sounding like familiar indie rock, but at no time ever boring, Silence Kit commands its material always. Silence Kit never gets cheesy and never beats a riff into submission through endless repetition. Quite the opposite is true, in fact; the band plays a melody only once or twice and moves on to the next thing even though you’d love to hear more of it. I’ll bet these guys could write some amazing, lasting post-punk if they were to confine themselves to writing two- or three-minute songs.

The band obviously spent some time on the packaging and presentation as well – it’s very well done. Unfortunately you never get to see pictures of who’s in the band, though, as most of the photographs feature the band’s equipment alone. (You get to see the phalanx of guitar pedals that it must take to wring out some of the amazing sounds recorded here.) If you keep an open mind and just let the music take you where it wants to go, you’ll really enjoy Pieonear. You just have to let it be your pioneer.