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      The Silence

      Electric Meditations

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      Electric Meditations Review

      by Thom Jurek

      Since Masaki Batoh founded the Silence in 2014, the guitarist and group have traversed open sonic terrains between acid folk and psychedelic rock, free improvisation and structured composition, visceral statement and textured meditative space. Electric Meditations brings together the same quartet that issued the excellent, sprawling Metaphysical Feedback in 2019: Batoh on guitar and vocals; Taiga Yamazaki on bass and vocals; Futoshi Okano on the drum kit, and Ryuichi Yoshida on baritone saxophone and flute. For the first time, the Silence recorded completely in analog at Tokyo's GOK Studios. The warmth and immediacy of the album's sound is welcoming and enveloping.

      Set-opener "Tsumi to Warai" weds clattering snare and cymbals, power chords, distorted bass, and processional bleats from the baritone horn. The tune is grimy, slow, plodding, almost doomy, but the saxophone adds a spiraling sense of foreboding drama. The opening vamp in "Butterfly Blues" recalls Morphine's funkiest music, at least before Yamazaki's yowling vocal claims the center. That said, the punchy, spiky, James Brown-esque guitar vamps, baritone sax honks, and mercurial dynamics revolve around a restrained yet throbbing bassline and skeletal snare breaks. They usher in a wandering flute solo from Yoshida that eventually entwines with his baritone horn. The band lifts off in the latter half as Batoh adds a squalling fuzzed-out solo. "Meido Nisshi" whispers itself in with tentatively fingerpicked acoustic guitar and soprano saxophone. Suddenly, a chorded sequence and accented drums put forth a slow, shambolic waltz tempo. Just after the chorus, fuzzed-out power chords slash into the mix's center. It ebbs and flows, its tension flirting equally with bliss and menace. It's the perfect setup for the title track, which makes full use of analog reverb and delay amid a dark, roiling swamp-blues groove that resides in the musical no-man's land between the Doors' "Five to One" and Can's "Halleluwah." "Improvisation" is exactly that: a spacy swirl of color, texture, inquisitive playing, and near-ambient dynamics that transforms into a lovely, melodic exercise in melodic saxophone invention just before its nadir. It introduces a scorching cover of the Bo Diddley classic "I'm a Man" that owes equally to the rave-up blues-rock of Paul Butterfield, the raw, swaggering groove of the live Muddy Waters band, and the filthy garage primitivism of the Standells. Closer "E/A" is a seductive, nearly cinematic instrumental. At over six minutes, it walks the tightrope between the serpentine interplay of Batoh's bluesy, reverbed guitar and Yoshida's incantatory whispering flute amid circular chord changes and blissed-out atmospherics. Electric Meditations is a loose, warm follow-up to Metaphysical Feedback and a welcome sequel. Its canny sense of melodic drift is less tied to an end result than its predecessor, but it's also more welcoming. In total, it results in a more exploratory, if abstracted, psychedelic journey of inner space.

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