VA: The Silence Was Warm Vol. 5
Symbolic Interaction

The fifth volume in Symbolic Interaction's ongoing The Silence Was Warm series offers a timely opportunity to take stock of current electronic producers' practices and the kind of music they're creating. Time was when it was relatively easy to place material into analog or digital and acoustic or synthetic slots, but the fourteen pieces gathered on this latest compilation suggest that things are no longer so simple. If the contributions share anything, it's an approach that sees their creators no longer concerning themselves with genre issues (if they ever did) and simply using the resources at hand to create engaging instrumental works. Acoustic and synthetic sounds intermingle organically, and the focus is on an overall sound design geared towards realizing a particular effect.

The sixty-eight-minute set mixes names familiar—Roel Funcken, Ian Hawgood, Cyan341, and Rachael Boyd a sampling of names that might ring a bell—with others less so. Most contributors adhere to song-styled structures in their pieces, with Home Normal head Hawgood a conspicuous outlier in opting for an explorative meditation in his texturally rich “Paper Harmonies (Tokyo).” As a result, the collection is about as accessible and melodically appealing a compilation as one might hope to find as far as underground electronic music collections are concerned.

Mulllr makes good on the role of scene-setter by inaugurating the recording with a deeply textural ambient soundscape that manages to be both calming and packed with activity (“Nine Particles”), after which Summer Night Air imbues the release with the summery breeze of “4.3,” an uptempo yet still serene track that one would describe as post-rock if push came to shove. Elsewhere, Ard Bit's “Hum Score” parks itself squarely within the electronica tradition with a swoon-inducing slice of Boards of Canada-styled prettiness heavy on synth textures and headnod, Escaping Animals' “Munmorah” lumbers and lopes through a night-time setting filled with crickets, owls, and other nocturnal noisemakers, and Boyd's “Push Through Little Bee” nudges the recording in a neo-classical direction with a lovely reverie heavy on piano and strings (though one not so purely classical it can't make room for field recordings and processing touches).

As downtempo as the collection generally is, not all of the material is relaxed in tone: there's energized techno swing from Cyan341 (“Postdigital Love”), hyperactive, jazz-inflected breakbeats by Weave (“Entwined”), and funky, synth-pop swirl from Set In Sand (“Get Together”); however, the disc's heaviest hitter is, not surprisingly, Funcken, who brings the heat to “Cheen Groice” with dizzying, acid-drenched beatwork. Compiler Kentaro Togawa (aka The Retail Sectors and Hopeless Local Marching Band) has crafted this installment to be somewhat of a Symbolic Interaction-Abandon Building venture, given the involvement of acts associated with the latter such as Set In Sand and K-Conjog—merely one more indication of the kind of fertile cross-pollination that's become standard practice in the contemporary electronic production world captured on the release.

August-September 2014