Review: Cfcf – On Vacation
CFCF first arrived in my consciousness several years ago when I heard his revelatory remix of the funk-disco classic, ‘Midas Touch’ by Midnight Star. Having transformed a brash affirmation of sexual confidence into something altogether more wistful and tender, it was clear that Michael Silver was a man of considerable talent. Not everyone has the ability to create a remix which completely changes the atmosphere of a track for the better.
An incredibly underrated aspect of music, atmosphere is the mysterious glue which gives music its fuzzy and consequently human quality. The often unplaceable strength of atmosphere is what CFCF himself explored most fully in his ‘Night Bus’ mixes; pieces of work which threaded together the duskiness of artists as diverse as Notorious B.I.G, Autechre and Eurythmics.
On his debut effort for the Uruguayan imprint International Feel, Silver again harnesses the power of atmosphere, albeit in a much different form. Given its title, ‘On Vacation’ is understandably a world away in mood from his earlier public transport-themed mixes. It also differs greatly to the ‘80’s-influenced ‘Outside’.
Instead, ‘On Vacation’ can be seen as a logical continuation of CFCF’s explorations within 2015’s ‘The Colours of Life’ and ‘Radiance & Submission’. If the former takes its inspiration from the mugginess of a sweltering tropical rainforest, however, then ‘On Vacation’ takes its cues from the whole world around us.
Somewhat taking up where his previous albums left off, Silver’s opener ‘Sate Padang’ – named after an Indonesian dish – brings the listener back into his rainforest world, underpinned by a rubbery bass-line reminiscent of those found within the exceptional oeuvre of Paul Simon. An element of travel, however, is injected into the mini-album with ‘Arto’. Sounding like a slowed-down Nouvelle Vague instrumental, its languid passages wash over to evoke memories of holidays in the South of France. ‘Chasing’ does much of the same, with its simple double bass refrain nicely contrasting with a spiralling, delay-treated acoustic guitar line. ‘Pleasure Centre Dans Un Taxi’, meanwhile, as the centre-piece of the album, serves to finally highlight how striking the combination of slap-bass and a simple Balearic piano-line really is.
Like the physical force of gravity and just like any holiday, sadly, what comes up must come down. ‘On Vacation’ therefore ends with CFCF coming home. ‘Lighthouse on Chatham Sound’ and ‘Vermont’, both built upon simple guitar lines, delicately recreate the stillness, calmness and quiet of winter, much like Justin Vernon’s Volcano Choir project.
Overall, Michael Silver’s latest effort can easily be categorised as ambient. Never threatening the dance-floor, packed full of a broad range of ‘traditional’ instruments and full of tracks centred upon repetitive phrases, ‘On Vacation’, simply put, recreates the easy-going and simple percolations of a holiday period. ‘Lighthouse on Chatham Sound’, for example, with the same guitar line running throughout, strongly brings to mind the repetition of waves lapping on a beach. Contrasting with some previous work of his, this ambient sensibility also brings with it a complete absence of vocals. ‘On Vacation’ is squarely focused on transporting the listener and providing an escape during these tough winter months. On this level it succeeds with ease; as well as being supremely evocative and atmospheric it is a patient, considered and mature piece of work which belies the age of its creator.
International Feel released José Padilla’s Balearic opus ‘So Many Colours’ just in time for summer last year. ‘On Vacation’, however, is being released in winter of this year. Given that the mini-album culminates in a return to a cold North American environment, maybe there is a winter release date for a very good reason. Maybe Michael Silver, with his work, is trying to provide excitement and escapism with regards to what lies further ahead. And maybe, with the final two tracks, he is also trying to celebrate the joy and beauty in the stillness, tranquillity and atmosphere of winter, elements which are often overlooked and underappreciated. We may never know his intentions but for now, it is good to escape.
Buy the record HERE.