Essential New Music: The Silence’s “Metaphysical Feedback”

Back when MAGNET reviewed the Silence’s self-titled debut, the writer suggested that the main difference between Masaki Batoh’s latest rock band and Ghost (the one he led for a quarter century) was the acoustic real estate that opens up when the guitar gets demoted from lead instrument to embellishment. Four years and three albums later, a more nuanced impression emerges.

First of all, the Silence is a lot more productive than Ghost was. Whatever dynamics slowed the old group down must be kept in check now. And while it’s true that Batoh and crew are still finding ways to first clear and then refill acoustic space with maximal gestures, the instrumental balance has shifted. The piano and organ have been reigned in, and Batoh’s squalling electric guitar trades solos with Ryuichi Yoshida’s wheeling flute and roaring baritone sax in the fields where keyboards once ranged free. It’s the balance between the sounds that matters, not any particular instrument. To ensure equilibrium between said sounds, the Silence records in a high-end analog studio. The result is music that feels rooted in a 1970s sound world but not bound to it.

—Bill Meyer