Quiet Village Silent Movie

[!K7; 2008]

Styles: euphoric, come-down, haunted
Others: Studio, Low Motion Disco, Aeroplane

‘Balearic’ as a term is so loose that effectively defining it is near hopeless, and as a genre it has been hung with the guilty pleasure albatross — a term that should be banished from the critical lexicon — since its birthing during the ’80s. Its loose association with early house, a direct descendant of disco (a genre that itself carried the stigma for decades), is likely a good sum of this problem. And let us not dare even mention its Europop leanings or its affiliations with Ibiza -- or, worse still, its leanings toward the chill-out scene. No matter your sentiments regarding the genre, however, with Silent Movie, Quiet Village have gone lengths in reclaiming these most derided aspects of the balearic scene, one-upping the term by charging it with cheesecake sensuality, giallo vibe, and soft drugs. It is as camp as a row of tents at its heart, but it speaks in a much darker tone than many of its contemporaries and predecessors.

The album, which is by some degree an edits album, is composed of samples EQ-ed, layered, and affixed to rhythms that threaten to vaporize in places. Edwards and Martin have cultivated their samples through their love of Morricone, ’60s and ’70s films, and, of course, their adoration for Martin Denny and Les Baxter (hence the group name). Suggesting that this record is a labor of love is an understatement; it is heavy with personally significant touchstones speaking of collective histories, a survey of the influences of these two artists.

The album is at once deceptively simple in composition and remarkably effective in its subtlety, which is where its most profound strength lies. Beneath the surface, what can by turns seem like sedate references to gorgeous windswept shores or to city panoramas flickering by in the twilight hours reflect something more sexually yearning or sinister. Opener “Victoria’s Secret” is one of the few instances where the appearance of shore-crashing waves and gull calls seems less a nauseating reach for soppy dramatics than a flash of breast in a soft porn flick. “Broken Promises,” replete with whistling refrain, places a nuanced suggestion of a hand drawing a straight razor across a throat in a Fulci film, buried just beneath the warm glow of a comedown vibe.

Even compositions that reveal nothing grander than their face value are equal in their expressive qualities to their double-edged counterparts. “Pillow Talk,” which unfolds with strummed chords, undulating bass, and rim hits, builds into a guitar refrain culminating in synth rushes that will unavoidably bring the word “space” into the critical descriptive mix. “Gold Rush,” one of the finest compositions of the collection, moves forth from smoke and shadow on a tribal rumble, climaxing ever so gently with a hypnotic voice coursing through the haze, before recessing once again into darkness.

While the nu-balearic/cosmic revolution is certainly working at strides to remove some of the more unsavory memories of its ancestors’ time period and to retain its vitality in the underground — which is likely where the scene should have remained — groups like Low Motion Disco and Mountain of One still tread dangerously close to the elements of camp that drove potential listeners away the first time around. By adhering closer to the downtempo teachings in their use of samples and moods, however, Quiet Village eschew what could potentially be fatal pop-emotional bombast, and in the process craft a more palatable entrance to this revived scene. While it might present a challenge to fully embrace the trappings of its forebears in order to appreciate its current value, there really is nothing wrong with a bit of camp or kitsch from time to time. Go a little deeper; there really is no harm.

Most Read