SRMeixner – A Silent War CD Black Rose Recordings / Oxidation 2021
Stephen Meixner of Contrastate has been recording and releasing music under this solo guise for many years now and generally speaking it involves a more abstract and darkly experimental sound than that of the main project (yet some indirectly similar sonic threads too can be noted too). With reference to this latest work the liner notes highlight A Silent War had its nexus in 2020 UK Covid lockdowns and was intended as a working basis for further recordings, but obviously evolved into this standalone work. Likewise, the liner notes provide further detail on the working methodology, which was inspired by 1980’s recycling projects and involved recontextualising sound sources contributed by close associates. Six tracks make up A Silent War which includes an element of social commentary but is which is also not overtly emphasised. This is weaved within the crisply refined electronics which slot neatly under a ‘dark ambient / experimental / post-industrial soundscape’ descriptor.
The title track opens the album exudes a performance art angle, which is mostly due to the tone provided by manipulated spoken word vocals, while the minimal shimmering soundscape is occasionally interrupted with moments of melodic percussive strikes. Breathe continues and is framed around multiple electric to semi-orchestral drones coupled with a centrally placed jittery tonal texture, while further vocal cuts up referencing the track title and its thematic aspect. The instrumental track Virtue Signalling brings more interweaving melancholic drones but also includes a wonky pitch-shifting tonal framework blended with vague mechanical rhythmic elements and other manipulated tones (piano note stabs perhaps?). In maintaining the prevailing sonic theme the minimalist but incessant plodding pulse of Unfinished Business characterises the first segments before shifting off into melancholic drone territory with fragile tonal respite. We Demand Tomorrow (or business as usual) slightly differs, given it contains some forceful electricity-toned textures, while late in the track it morphs into musically playful and percussive-driven elements. As for the final track Singing About Revolution, it is a short two-minute cut and the oddest and surreal offering of the lot, to the point of being quite jarring against the tone of the balance of the album (and therefore well-positioned at the album’s conclusion). Here there is a clear nod to Contrastrate thanks to vocals provided by Jonathan Grieve, and notable the lyrics are credited to Nina Simone to close the thematic loop.
A six-panel double gatefold cover with extensive liner notes rounds out the packaging of an expertly crafted yet equally understated album of experimental ambient & post-industrial sonics.