After three sought-after singles for the Whatever We Want label, plus remixes for the likes of Gorillaz, François K, Cosmo Vitelli and, um, The Osmonds, Quiet Village step out of the shadows to present their first full-length album, Silent Movie. Comprised of master crate-digger Joel Martin and rising dance-music star Matt Edwards (aka Radio Slave), and borrowing their name from Martin Denny’s exotica masterpiece, Quiet Village make the old sound new (and vice versa). Influenced by Italian film soundtracks, BBC library music, disco edits, acid rock, vintage soul and easy listening, they smear the unlikeliest elements, bluesy guitar, chamber strings, air-raid sirens, shuffling breakbeats, even flutes and seagull cries, into an hour-long reverie with Vaseline on its lens.
Quiet Village are no ironists, they’re serious about their craft, and Silent Movie shows it. For every sly wink, the borderline cheesy slow-dance of the opening "Victoria’s Secret," complete with washing waves and an unctuous oboe lead, there’s a handkerchief wiping misty eyes. Tracks like "Free Rider," "Too High Too Move" and "Can’t Be Beat" are genuinely sentimental and not a little bit somber. (To quote an unforgettable line from The Big Lebowski, "Strong men also cry.") And they’ve got the groove thing down pat, whether it’s the stoned, corroded soul of "Pillow Talk" or the easy riding cruise control of "Circus of Horror."
Appropriate for a decade where musical categories continue to blur, Silent Movie can’t be described with any one term. Its assembly process may tag it as "electronic music," but you’ll find little else this lush in the electronica bin. The album is rich with feathery textures and swollen tones: acoustic guitars, harp, curtains of bells, hand drums, chamber strings, vintage synthesizers and voices, innumerable voices. Voices everywhere, even though you might not notice them at first. There are the obvious vocal riffs, the agonized blues soloing of "Circus of Horror," the speakeasy standup act of "Too High Too Move," the Motown (via Jamaica) riffing of "Pacific Rhythm," the slow-mo voiceover that turns "Can’t Be Beat" into a cough syrup siesta. But even apparently instrumental cuts like "Free Rider" and "Pillow Talk" explode into full-throated glory with rainbows of oohs and aahs. Just as Martin Denny’s island psychedelia informs Quiet Village’s seashells-and-bamboo exoticism, so does another group of surfcombers: the Beach Boys. Like them, Quiet Village use an uncanny grasp of harmony to wrap joy inside melancholy, and melancholy inside joy.
Silent Movie isn’t a "dance album," not by a long shot, but it’s as hypnotic as the rotation of a disco ball, chock full of long phrases, gentle repetitions and subtle shifts that slyly pull the rug out from under you. For head music, this is pretty body-conscious stuff. Chalk it up to Matt and Joel’s long history as DJs, inciting crowds at classic parties like New York’s Deep Space with a canny blend of dub, slow disco and vintage house, with plenty of surprises thrown in for good measure.
With the lights down low, the whole album takes on the quality of a dream state. Credit Quiet Village’s love of the chillout classics of the late ’80s and early ’90s, from Slowdive’s shoegazing to the Orb’s stargazing. Excessive noodling gave the comedown record a bad rep, but everybody’s got to calm down sometime, and Quiet Village have a secret recipe for relaxation. Again, the duo’s experience as selectors informs the album’s sequencing, resulting in a flow that’s as natural as the grooming in a Swedish ’70s flick. From the great exhalation of the opening track to the blissed-out drift of the closing "Keep On Rolling," Silent Movie flows in a long, emotive arc.
For all the talk of Balearic revivals, Silent Movie isn’t retro anything. Informed by Matt and Joel’s long histories as collectors and curators, the album is a love letter to the past, sealed with a dab of future perfume. It’s the unlikeliest screen kiss you’ll witness this year.
Sit back, close your eyes and let the images roll.
(written by Philip Sherburne)