Discolored Paintings (Self-Released, 2010)
For: Múm, Brian Eno, Gas
Byline: Creepier than it sounds like it might be. It’s a good thing.
How can I use the word “underwhelming” and make it sound like a compliment? I’m going to try really hard here.. check it - Silk Harbour’s album is totally underwhelming.. ...m..MANNNN!!
OK, it’s really hard to make that sound nice, but take note - this descriptor is meant in the best of ways possible. Look, almost all ambient albums are “growers” by default, and Discolored Paintings - the debut disc from the mysterious Josh Todd (aka Silk Harbour, whom I suspect is from the UK due to the .co.uk suffix of his e-mail address - NO MYSPACE ¡Viva la revolución!) - is one of these inside and out, through and through. Prepare to not be blown away - be as patient as the music when listening, for the rewards shall be many and they shall be great. The majority of the record is hushed, understated, controlled, reserved, and slow-blooming - and these are all the best things about Silk Harbour’s distinct sound, which makes its way from Eno’s ambient series, to Múm’s pastoral, chiming glockenspiels. Discolored Paintings is full of warm tones, hushed and subtle melodic motifs, backwards synths, choral bliss, and beautifully arranged strings. But there’s a dark and eerie side to Silk Harbour as well - Discolored Paintings is perhaps best enjoyed during the late hours on the shores of a still, black sea. Colors are mixed deep, dark, and murky. Synthetic harmonies swell into thick fogs where Silk Harbour’s delicate, unsettled touches of staccato jabs can easily play pranks on the mind - are there creatures to be found hidden deep in the abyss? “A Horizon of Broken Teeth,” is the straight-up creepiest. A desperate, pseudo-digitalized voice gasps a note of unintelligible lyrics beneath sonar blips, tumefying, stormy electronics and galloping drum samples. All told, Discolored Paintings adds up to a strong affair, despite the minor flaw of being slightly inconsistent style-wise. The album’s title track comes last, and the song bizarrely drops a chill-wavy/hip-hop beat (complete with a slick hook) into the album’s final minutes. Ironically, it’s one of the cooler tracks on the album - it's just that it sits a little strange among the record’s otherwise constant bulk of measured ambience.