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Silk Flowers

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Album Review

On the surface, artificial flora and bizarro electronic pop that sounds like it was recorded in a cave or a mad scientist's lab don't seem to have much in common, but Silk Flowers is an apt name for this New York-based trio — their sound is unrepentantly synthetic, pretty at times, and also a bit morbid. The band's self-titled debut doesn't sound much like the other projects of anyone involved with it. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Aviram Cohen and keyboardist Peter Schuette come from jazzy indie rockers Soiled Mattress & the Springs, and while Ethan Swan's Car Clutch is similarly strange and electronic, Silk Flowers is more focused and more mischievous. At different points on the album, the band's dark-yet-naïve sound nods to Kraftwerk, Suicide, John Carpenter's film scores, and library music, but that pedigree doesn't let on how much fun this music is. Some of the synths Silk Flowers use, as on the dreamy but sinister "Birds of Passion," are so cheap and brittle that they verge on camp; the woozy "Running out of Rope" could be an early-'70s electronic novelty pop song played at half-speed. Even the album's harder-edged tracks, like "Night Shades," which begins as flashy nightclub new wave and gets devoured by sheets of industrial noise, never feel too harsh thanks to Fred Thomas' production, which gives Silk Flowers a charmingly decrepit feel. However, it's Cohen's vocals that make this music a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. He forces his voice to go as low as it possibly can, and the results are usually awkward, sometimes hilariously so: on "Sand," he sounds like he's doing a bad Ian Curtis impression. Other times, the effect is actually spookier than if he'd hit the notes with ease, particularly on "In This Place," where the feeling he's channeled someone else's voice through his throat just adds to the song's haunted house moroseness. It's arguable that Silk Flowers would be better as a purely instrumental group, especially when the genuinely eerie mood of "Fragmented Mirror" is broken temporarily when Cohen's vocals begin. Yet it can't be denied that his voice adds a certain something to Silk Flowers, particularly its bookending tracks "Flash of Light" and "Shadows in Day Light," both of which are wistful and creepy enough to make Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs' playlist. Silk Flowers are as dark as any goth's tears, but they're laughing on the inside, and the way they switch from spooky to witty and back again makes this album hard to shake.


Formed: 2008 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Forging a hallucinatory blend of synths and deep, slurred vocals that sound like Ian Curtis on cough syrup, New York's Silk Flowers features vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Aviram Cohen and keyboardist Peter Schuette from Soiled Mattress & the Springs, and Ethan Swan of Car Clutch, Emergency, and Corpse Kisser. The band formed in 2008 and spent that fall touring with bands including Sightings, Tickley Feather, and No Age, who signed Silk Flowers to their label PPM. The "In This Place and Time" single...
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Silk Flowers, Silk Flowers
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