In the last few years, we’ve been graced by a wide variety of releases that reflect and build upon previous decades of electronic music. From Danny L Harle’s recent “HARLECORE,” harking back to the extravagant 90s rave scene, to the intricate and experimental discography of Burial, a large majority of recent electronic music incorporates the styles of the past—sometimes successfully, other times not so much. In “memoryland,” released Apr. 9 by label BGM Solutions, the Montreal-based artist CFCF takes listeners through a daring journey of all kinds of electronic subgenres of the 90s. Clocking in at 71 minutes, this album illustrates the depth of his musical knowledge while also demonstrating an extreme exploration of electronic sound.
Mike Silver, the musician behind the moniker CFCF, creates a beautiful and atmospheric listening experience on “memoryland,” meshing together musical elements that range from shoegaze to techno, alt-rock to electronica, and practically everything else in between. It is “inspired as much” by Sonic Youth and the Smashing Pumpkins as it is by the Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx. The album operates in a manner that is reminiscent of the past, through a lens that is both nostalgic and critical, towards the experimentation of electronic music in the 1990s. Silver’s influences are put in clear view—“Model Castings” featuring No Joy feels like a homage to Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker”; “Self Service 1999” could find a place inside Daft Punk’s discography; and “Gravure Idol” sounds like any track from Sweet Trip’s “velocity:design:comfort.” Instead of simply recapturing the sounds of a previous era, however, Silver creates tracks that are fresh and unique. Some of the strongest songs in this listing— like the short but sweet “Punksong” and the rousing anthem “Night/Day/Work/Home”—do not just emanate from Silver’s influences, but also reflect his own inventive style.
Perhaps what works best on “memoryland” is the cohesion Silver creates by bringing pop and electronic music together. Fusing all of these diverse and sometimes forgotten subgenres into one solid project, Silver does so in a way that’s unapologetically catchy, leaving listeners yearning for more. The album also resembles a sonic rollercoaster, reaching climactic highs and dispiriting lows that invoke a sincere emotional response. One great example of the record’s emotional depth is found in an audio sample on “suburbilude,” when an angsty teenage girl laments on her musical alienation: “Around here, it’s like, if you listen to anything weird, you’re considered some type of alien or something.” It resonates with the complexity of Silver’s niche musical influences, and it stimulates listeners to concentrate on the story being told. Moreover, the track placement shows Silver’s intricate attention to detail. “I see a loose narrative across the album,” he said in describing his latest release, of “losing your sense of self to the whims of your surroundings and trends in music and fashion.”
From a listener’s perspective, “memoryland” also takes form by adequately capturing the feelings we’ve faced during the current pandemic. Many of us have become quite familiar with isolation, fatigue, and solitude, and the album sonically recreates these feelings in an artistic fashion. Carefully crafted, Silver’s latest release longs for the past while also yearning for the future. All in all, “memoryland” provides us with the slightest glimmer of hope—for a time when clubs can reopen, people can reconnect, and, most importantly, the dancing can resume.
by Max Russ, check him out as the co-host of “Weekly Vibecheck” (Wednesdays, 4:00-6:00 pm).
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