9 December 2019
SILENT FORUM is a fascinating Welsh alt-rock band. It’s hard to pin their sound down.
The past year they released several tracks from their debut LP and what I heard was a kaleidoscopic variety of most inspiring influences from P.I.L to Big Country, from Talking Heads to The Gang Of Four and several other absorbing echoes from the past and the present. They produce a most riveting and multi-faceted guitar sonorousness that goes from infectious to haunting, from funky to punky, from groovy to hypnotizing. Lyrically they tackle social issues, they speak out about daily life’s inconveniences and the fragile state of humankind. Finally, their debut album has arrived. And it’s pretty cool to have vocalist Richard Wiggins here to guide us through it, track by track…
Here’s the music…
Here’s the track by track guide…
“This one’s a little freak-rocker about an office worker who has too much coffee in his bloodstream. The guitar ‘solo’ is a lot of fun, it’s a schizoid line of escape – any kid could plug in a guitar and do something in that space, it’s just a feeling. From the moment we jammed out the beat break we wanted something snappy and poppy. The bass started out as Oli trying to sound like an eighties robot, he went full robot in the studio. The lyrics are a, hopefully, funny take on the perspective of a dissatisfied employee who sees no point in what they are doing. “I feel a shortage of high pressure in my life/ I need the office chair/ I need spreadsheets I hold dear/I love coffee I hate beer.”
2. How I Faked The Moon Landing
“This was written in response to a radio DJ telling us that we were too serious. It is a six minute pop song that reshaped us as a band. It has received a surprising amount of radio play considering the lyrics “we’re destined to be/ a local band/ not on the local radio.” We worked out early on that it was crying out for an anthemic chorus. Elliot withheld the
snare in the verses to try to keep things simple and punchy in order to lift the chorus.
Oli’s bass riff adds a playful and hypnotic edge in between the beginning and end of what is otherwise a fairly straightforward pop structure. The B section/coda is what happens when a band who doesn’t listen to much disco tries to write a 3-minute disco outro. Whilst we do a lot of things that aren’t close to Moon Landing, this song is the pure essence of the band we were when we wrote it.”
3. Safety in Numbers
“This is a walk in the woods. Drawing from underrated British Folk sources such as Nick Drake’s guitar playing – he always managed to elevate the guitar’s timbral ‘woodishness’- and Nic Jones’ singing (particularly his 1980 LP Penguin Eggs). We then chuck in some lightly Nu Jazz-influenced drumming. There was a short while where playing this song would a couple of us cry, it reminds us of spending time with each other: big bowls of pesto pasta, tirades about difficult bosses and trying to express our gratitude to the people we love for their presence.”
4. A Great Success
“This song was the most joy to structure and went through several iterations to get to where it is. In a weird way it is our sexiest song, the lyrics, if you can make them out, are surprisingly explicit. The pre-chorus guitar parts are a bit of a Malkmusian trick. It’s a very melodic song. Dario has always been first and foremost a melodic guitarist, even when he is being anti-melodic. Transitioning from Safety in Numbers straight into this was one of Elliot’s many editorial ideas that helped shape the record.”
5. Kind of Blue
“Richard wrote the core of the lyrics for this song when he was 18 (8 years ago) he repurposed words written about leaving school and applied them to moving cities. He
is very sentimental and doesn’t like to throw anything away. Dario sees his main guitar
part in this song as the skeleton of an extremely psychedelic guitar part. We have no idea what chords he is playing in the chorus but they sound good. That outro is somewhat an extension of what he is doing in the Robot solo. It’s just a big deterritorialized flow. Oli plays around with some ambient delay textures on the bass which adds a spooky ethereal quality to the verses. Elliot wrote most of this song with one hand whilst his left hand was in a cast following surgery. All he could do to spice things up slightly was put the accents in places he wouldn’t usually. When he got his hand back it was a real joy to add a little jazzy inspiration at the end and be a little more subtle with the dynamics.”
6. Everything Solved at Once
“Dario has very weak synesthesia. It wouldn’t be worth mentioning but for the fact that to him this song is the exact same colour as ‘Under the Bushes Under the Stars‘ by Guided by Voices. It is a deliberately poppy song that features a samba-like breakdown which adds nicely to the light and summery feel. It is about finally moving on and trying something new, lyrically Richard had enough to write about to fuel fantastically fun vocal runs. “I have some trouble with processing change that’s why I resist it until/ I’m bored same streets; cyclical living.” We get to be a samba band in the middle of this song which is pretty cool.”
“This is another one that manages to be quite punky without at all really being a punk song. It is also the second song on the LP written from the perspective of a totally stressed out corporate office worker. “Welcome to my bland contribution to the world of work/ I’m here to make an impact and some other buzzwords.” The chorus seems to fold over itself nicely before the verse breaks out into and tightly bound chaos. Oli plays the same note over and over with copious delay, it gets into a simple and repetitive groove which really takes hold. Dario’s guitar riff is punky in a vaguely Gang of Four way, it is surreal absurd to mix this jagged performance in with a song about corporate life. After the second chorus, we just unfold into this expansive plateau. It sounds kinda apocalyptic if apocalypses could be low-key.”
“Our most searing song, if we’ve ever written a ‘face-melter‘ it is this one. It was
written to be the antithesis of every other one of our songs. It is slow, has an unusual structure, uses a different set of pedals and it has a wild key change towards the end. There’s a live version of ‘Echoes‘ (it may be at Pompeii) where David Gilmour becomes a noise rock guitarist, this is something like that.”
9. Credit to Mark Sinker
“Mark Sinker always feels like it’s going to fall apart at the edges. The seams are about to give way: out will fall trumpets, discordant guitar lines, flamenco patterns, and a sleazy bass. Oli and Elliot teamed up to create something messy and dark, this still pervades through the whole track and it is a blast to play live. We needed to be a bit jagged with the structure of this one too and I think the beginning of the song does all the hard work with an eerie build-up and a peculiar dynamic rise before the chorus to make things all the more unsettling. It propels itself on by some freaky energy that could never be the result of careful planning. It is dedicated to the music journalist Mark Sinker who wrote a very beautiful, yet not particularly complementary, review of Richard’s favourite Felt album in the NME in the 1980s. A couple of the lyrics draw from this review. There is also an apology for the band previously having been overly moody. “Obscure equals good equals fascinating/ I’d like to apologise for pitching sadness as an aspiration”.
10. A Pop Act
“This was the second song written in response to that DJ – it is slightly less accessible. It is funny hearing Richard insisting at the top of his voice, and the top of his range, that Silent Forum is nothing if not a pop act before the track breaks down into a deep, dark groove. Why is it that the sexiest songs are always the darkest ones? Elliot’s single drum pattern was so much fun at the time he decided to play it for a whole song. The beginning and ends are very tightly structures but then we get to let loose a little in the middle We find playing and listening to this track empowering – a satisfying way to end the record.”
Thank you for guiding us through the album, Richard.
May the road rise with Silent Forum!
SILENT FORUM: Facebook