Silver Servants – self-titled

Silver Servants - self-titled

Silver Servants – self-titled

The collection of artists that have made up the Second Language roster since the label’s inception in 2009 have never shied away from collaboration or exploring shared ideas, whether it be through a myriad of themed compilations or via the direct intermingling of musicians across separate albums.  This new – but long-in-the-works – project takes such creative collectivism another step further, into deeper and broader integration, with a Second Language ‘super-group’ trading under the name of Silver Servants.

Originally hatched out of semi-improvised sessions from 2010 and 2012 in London’s Soup Studios (a regular stopping-off place for many 2L artists) before finally being nipped and tucked into place earlier this year by co-producers Glen Johnson (Piano Magic) and Oliver Cherer (Dollboy), this eponymous Silver Servants set is a kaleidoscopic yet cohesive collection of songs and instrumentals.  Throughout its running time, the LP takes and reshuffles shared obsessions for ornithology, antiquarian English eccentricity, cosmopolitan European urbanism, rural pyschogeography, sociability and solitude.  With an extensive roll-call of singers and players too numerous to individually detail, the album sways and shimmers between an array of musical styles and personnel combinations.

Turning first to the vocal-driven tracks, the assembled cast bring both familiar and self-challenging pieces to the table.  Hence, Johnson fronts up the fractured expansive dark-folk of “A Crow Will Remember Your Face” (as if Piano Magic had time-travelled into the recording of The Wicker Man soundtrack) and the bleak cityscape-prowling observations of “Lopsided” (which impressively extends up on the seedy Pulp-meets-Leonard Cohen-noire narratives found within his still-fresh Same Sex mini-album on Hibernate).  In-between times, Cherer follows on from his own recent solo record (the gently stunning Sir Ollife Leigh & Other Ghosts), by leading a string of baroque-folk nuggets in the form of the utterly gorgeous “Still Small Voice” (which makes more than an affectionate nod to John Cale’s “Child’s Christmas In Wales”), the plaintive Syd Barrett-referencing “Murmurations (Reprise)” and the hushed rustic meditations of “File Under Bankrupt.”  Elsewhere, folk-legend Mark Fry also makes his delicate yet unwavering presence felt on the sparse elegiac “Murmurations” and inside the eerie dronescape of “Far Below.”

Whilst the Cherer, Johnson and Mark Fry-led numbers consolidate the consistency of their prior works elsewhere in the 2L catalogue, a handful of other lesser-known voices appear atop the remaining non-instrumental cuts, with more curveball-throwing results.  Thus, Our Broken Garden’s Anna Brønsted adds her diaphanous lilt to the In A Silent Way-indebted ambient-jazz adaptation of the well-known “Jerusalem” hymn; Roxy Fry brings her comforting Radio 4 resonating tones as the spoken word companion to the ambient-electro essaying of “Quam Quod Non Currant,” and The Eyes In The Heat’s Zizi Kanaan brings a slowed-down near-purring Brix Smith-shaped vocal to the oblique cocktail jazz conclusion of “Your Endless Woman.”  Whilst the wide spectrum of vocalists certainly give this Silver Servants debut much of its character, two interspersed instrumentals carry an equal amount of importance; providing us with the electro-acoustic reverie of “Spalling Farrows” (driven by Piano Magic’s Jerome Tcherneyan, Isnaj Dui’s Katie English and David Sheppard of Ellis Island Sound, Phelan Sheppard, Snow Palms et al.) and the soothingly plaintive solo piano interlude of “The Moment Returns” (courtesy of Klima’s Angèle David-Guillou).

Silver Servants - Cold Lazarus

Silver Servants – Cold Lazarus bonus EP

As with many early-bird and subscriber purchases of 2L releases, this album release comes with a choice bonus disc.  In this case it’s the Cold Lazarus EP, which offers up the balmy intimacies of its title-track, the voodoo-madrigal of “Ludwig Und Gudden,” the sublime Neu!-meets-The Fall kosmische groove-ride of “See The Light” and the ghostly Radio-Activity-era Kraftwerk homage of “Cold Lazarus (Reprise).”

With such a virtuous compost of ideas, moods and personas, it may take a little while for these 16 gathered tracks to mulch down into the consciousness, even for those well-attuned to the Second Language way of life.  Yet as the label has often reminded us, instant gratification does not always mean long-term satisfaction, so given time this first batch of Silver Servants material will warrant much-deserved affection for its slow-release blend of experimentation and earthiness.

Second Language