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Silk Flowers - Ltd Form

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Collaborations often fuel the flames of excess but occasionally an unlikely pop-underground alliance causes a bemused scratching of head and a eureka moment of ‘why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?’ New York trio Silk Flowers, AKA Aviram Cohen, Ethan Swan and Peter Schuette, cause such an action by teaming up with Amanda ‘MNDR’ Warner, most (in)famous for her vocals on Mark Ronson’s ubiquitous ‘Bang Bang Bang’, who adds some pop sheen to the production of their sophomore album.

Brief opener ‘Chance’ starts off with some off-kilter, stabbing synth lines that undulate into a crescendo above a highly compressed indefatigable beat & mechanical noises. ‘Frozen Moments’ is more akin to the cold wave stylings of the band’s debut with a stark lo-fi drum beat overlaid by an arpeggiating bassline that is gently punctuated with a variety of pistons, whistles and sirens. ‘Fruit of the Vine’ features the surprise advent (to the uninitiated anyway) of Aviram Cohen’s baritone, singing-Bowie-at-karaoke, croon. The convivial naiveté of the vocals, lyrics and instrumentation give the song a whimsical bitter-sweet pop edge that makes for some repeat playing.

‘Small Fortune’ features some glacial synth work and an intricate middle 8 that is driven along by a rattling snare beat before ‘Band of Colour’ brings Cohen’s rudimentary vocals back into the fray. Featuring some dexterous interplay of melody lines and a harrumphing bass, it’s a whirlwind that finishes in less than three minutes. Closer “A Brush through the Dirt” follows the formula of the previous vocalised tracks with Cohen’s limited range adding a human edge to a highly synthesised track.

 The band, unlike fellow New Yorkers Blondes and Holy Fuck, don’t veer down the path of improvisation with each track tightly composed and the album’s short length conveys this regimented approach. Displaying a keen pop sensibility, no doubt enhanced by the presence of Warner behind the desk, melody permeates through all the tracks on show but it is the three featuring vocals that catch the attention. That’s not to neglect the instrumental tracks which more than hold their own despite the basic instrumentation & percussion inherent in some of them. This uncouth drum programming forms a skeleton structure to the tracks which results in focusing the listener’s attention on the synth-heavy harmonies which are in plentiful supply. Warner may have wanted to claw back some indie gravitas by undertaking this project but whilst there is a discernible increase in the quality of production, it’s Silk Flowers’ raw talent that shines through.

Paul Fanning

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