Life Was All Silence

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Live Review from Songs without Words

1. Behind The Mercury
2. Human Traffic
3. Falling Wall
4. Improvise
5. Damascus

Life Was All Silence are an experienced collective who have adopted the gothic/vampiric aesthetic purveyed by a few other notable denizens of this 24-hour city. Black-clad and contemplative, they begin hunched over their instruments with their backs to the audience, and as noodling morphs into the first track proper it becomes clear that that’s how they’re going to stay.

Behind The Mercury presents an ethereal waltz, like a gothic marionette show played out in an incomprehensible dialect, twirling lifeless through a dusty mansion. In the finest tradition of creepy dolls, it eventually reveals itself to be murderous, driven by jarring chords and chopping drums and pulsing bass. It’s no exaggeration to say this music is able to create genuine discomfort in its audience; that is some achievement.

Human Traffic switches mood entirely, with a bassline reminiscent of Birdland and drums of Shaft. As it develops, shades of cold grey move to dominate the sound, but brightness cuts through like beams of sunshine after a week of heavy atmospheric weather. Proficient and extremely crisp. Next, Falling Wall has the audience breathing easy again, steady and unthreatening.

Improvise returns to the darker sound, with wailing synths and irregular toc-toc-tocs from the drums keeping the audience jumpy and off-balance. Perfect North Asian horror movie material. This is resolved by the final track, Damascus, which provides a regular beat and, although still dark, is far more kinetic than its predecessors. Its energy suggests action and requires less restraint, and it showcases the group’s exceptional time and highly sophisticated arrangements.

By remaining with their backs to the audience, Life Was All Silence invited the audience to ‘follow them’ into their world. Non-aural expression, whether lyrics or body language, would be a distraction from their art; it was therefore excised and pinpoint focus maintained. Alternatively, it was pretentious, arrogant and alienating; by refusing eye contact and nullifying body language, they were stripping away an important element of performance and a means to engage with the audience on more than one level. Or maybe it had some other effect, or maybe none at all. It’s up to you to decide for yourself.

–Brendan Clift

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