[sic] Magazine

CFCF – The Colours of Life

I’ve enjoyed the music of Michael Silver for quite a few years now since his debut under the CFCF moniker, Continent, came out in 2009, and I can honestly say that every aesthetic evolution his sound has undertook has been completely congruent with my own tastes during the same period. The pair of EPs from 2012 and 2013, Exercises and Music for Objects, showed off his versatility and compositional chops, and led nicely into his most cohesive album, Outside; a tour de force of 80s inspired pop and dreamy electronica. Even as recently as last month CFCF released a top quality full length on Driftless entitled Radiance and Submission that ranks among my favourite albums issued this year, but he’s truly gone into ‘next level shit’ territory with The Colours of Life, a seamless 40-minute instrumental ‘suite’ that flows from one musical idea to the next without even the slightest hint of a misstep; a note-perfect meditation on the radiance of beauty, and a brazen submission to the inscrutable whims of nostalgia.

Okay, I’ll get this out of the way early: everything CFCF writes is pretty 80s sounding (even when channeling composers like Glass and Reich he hones in on their output from that decade) and this album is possibly his most 80s yet, to the degree that it is basically a distillation of the cream of that distinctly 80s blend of synthesiser-heavy ambient excursions (Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, David Borden, Software, Kitaro), organic new age meanderings (Jon Hassell, Suzanne Ciani, Enya, Clannad), warm minimalist musings (Meredith Monk, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Wim Mertens, Penguin CafĂ© Orchestra), cinematic sentimentality (Mark Isham, James Horner, Joe Hisaishi, Jan Hammer), luxuriant swirls of silken jazz (David Sanborn, Grover Washington, Steps Ahead, The Rippingtons), sophisticated pop reverberations (Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Mark Knopfler, Don Henley) and those uncategorisable quirks that belong to that time but are not entirely of that time (Bill Nelson, Robert Fripp, Manuel Göttsching, Laurie Anderson, Geinoh Yamashirogumi). However, whilst it is clearly indebted to the music of that period, The Colours of Life is most definitely not a pastiche, it being subtly gilded with the sparkle of the new and the vibrant; a fresh perspective on a well-worn path.

I could put things in a different and more succinct way by saying that The Colours of Life is essentially the epitome of what every kid making vapourwave wishes they could produce, but know they cannot because they lack the talent or the creativity of someone like CFCF to craft such a thing of ineffable beauty, so instead they nick pre-existing pieces of music, mess around with them in a DAW, slap some retro imagery in there, add some kanji and kana into the mix and Bob’s your uncle. That’s all fine and dandy, but when you compare their results to something like this record, it’s really night and day; one is using the art of a previous generation as a raw material to be distorted and tinkered with, the other is building on the foundations of that past to create something new and wonderful. Both routes can lead to excellent destinations, but I know which one I feel more respect and admiration for (and also be more willing to part with my cash to support).

Anyway, this record has instantly become a favourite of mine and nestles comfortably alongside the likes of We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, Classical Curves, Galaxy Garden, R Plus Seven and, most recently, Nozinja Lodge, as a modern-day masterpiece; a pinnacle of contemporary music.

(Oh, one last bonus in CFCF’s favour; he’s actually used the proper spelling of the word ‘colour’. Not an important point in the grand scheme of things, but it’s nice to know that Canada hasn’t been totally subsumed by American culture and retains its links to Britain and the Commonwealth in everyday aspects like the spelling of words.)