It’s been nearly a half decade since he first started putting out New Age-indebted drone tapes as Run DMT, and in that span Michael Collins has proved himself a pretty capable revivalist. As that project morphed from minimal, no-fi ambient work into a ’60s-leaning guitar-pop act before finally settling down as a freaky folk band under the similarly punny moniker Salvia Plath, his M.O. remained the same: delve wholeheartedly into a well-trodden genre from the past and warp it with an eccentric, acid-addled approach to production and composition. Now, he’s sparked up another endeavor with longtime friend and occasional collaborator Sasha Desree called Silk Rhodes that applies that same method to the familiar tropes of ’70s funk and soul, all the while remaining just offbeat enough to avoid pastiche.
After a brief introductory track—complete with a dazed narrator exclaiming “this is crazy!”—the record’s lead single and obvious standout “Pains” slowly clatters in as a thesis statement of sorts for the 10 tracks that follow. Built around a swooning string sample, droning organ lines, and the slow shimmer of a lightly tremoloed guitar line, it’s a hazy deconstruction of the slinky R&B tracks that D’Angelo has chunked out over time. All the while, Desree sings spiraling falsetto sweet nothings and offers up a lyrical platitude that seems to sum up their status as tinkerers in established fields: “all things must change and remain.”
But if Collins is to be believed, none of the similarities to icons from the annals of soul’s history (see also the Al Green-isms of “Realtime” or the Chicago house send-up “Personal Use”) were intentional homages. It was instead what came to the duo unconsciously while tripping on the front porch of a house they shared in Baltimore. While that was only the direct circumstance for the creation of the eccentric funk track “Face 2 Face”, it’s a mode of working that seems to explain the record’s idiosyncrasies. Even on “Pains”, which is as close as this record gets to the rearview mirror worship of similarly silky acts like Gayngs and Inc., Desree’s otherworldly vocalizations appear mostly unadorned—the usual orchestral flourishes that you might expect in this sphere give way to downtrodden minimalism. It’s a tactic they pick up occasionally throughout the record, and all of its best moments, including the narcotized, drumless ballads “This Painted World” and “Barely New”, demonstrate their dedication to counterintuitive arrangements and fractured songwriting.
With Desree and Collins’ predilection toward sparse instrumentals in mind, at a breezy half-hour runtime Silk Rhodes could easily feel like an unnecessarily slight release. But those shorter tracks end up being one of the record’s great strengths. Even when they occasionally stumble upon a melody that might start to feel a little too familiar, as on the wordless “ahh-ahhs” that fill “Group 1987”, they’re quick to shuffle to the next track, letting the disorienting lurch between songs serve as substitute for groundbreaking experimentalism. On each of his many releases to date, Collins is always trying to reinvent one wheel or another, and even though that’s traditionally seen as a fruitless exercise, what he and Desree have ended up with on Silk Rhodes is an invention worth marveling at in its own right.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1yo6uuu