For Montreal’s Michael Silver, better known as composer/producer CFCF, everything is in flux. Originally an advocate of the modern electronic production toolbox — particularly its steady stream of crackling MIDI keypad beats, ghostly synth lines, and pervading bass — he’s also shown interest in open-air, even acoustic arrangements. On his third full-length, Radiance and Submission, the meditative soundscaper attempts to fully fuse pristine electronics and folk-inclined features. But even with scattered moments of fusion, the electro-folk marriage rarely succeeds.
On both originals and remixes, Silver would let one half of that formula dominate while using the other as influence, rather than push the listener into new, uncomfortable territory. Traditional rise-and-fall structures do that familiarizing work on Radiance and Submission on occasion; sullen keyboard nudges on the album opener “In Praise of Shadows” push forward increasingly contemplative guitar and water glass tapping. Similarly, mesmerizing fingerpicked acoustic guitar repeats and intermeshes on “Two Mirrors”, rising gradually over sparkling synth murmurs to form a harmonious, mind-clearing blend that breaks at the voice of a child’s laughter.
Unfortunately, the majority of the tracks here lack that auditory lock-and-key interweave. Instead, Silver attempts to force stylistic egalitarianism, the two sides of his composition awkwardly failing to join. The squelching, keytar-esque arpeggios on “Sculptures of Sand” uncomfortably blur the line between electronic source and acoustic approximation, repeating ad nauseam. Meanwhile, the guitar and wind chimes that balance over synth chording on “A Various Language (From the Same Hill)”, sultry and mystical as the combination might seem in theory, feel cheap and could do better without the light, moody base. The eventual introduction of Silver’s David Crosby-ian vocals on “Ruined Maps” does help guide listeners out of that dark folktronic wilderness. But, valiant as the effort was to bring the two together, certain genre mutations are finicky, and Silver just can’t quite get the halves to fit perfectly.
Essential Tracks: “In Praise of Shadows”, “Two Mirrors”