Art rock with as much violin as there is guitar.
Easily one of the best hidden gems of the rock world to pop onto my radar in 2020 is Sylvette. Returning with their second album ‘Stiller Than Still’, the quintet have made an uncanny album of memorable bangers and haunting weirdness.
The title track is a perfect example of this. Sylvette relishes in taking something that sounds initially quite mainstream in its delivery and then playing it in an unusual slant, with an unusual chord or motif thrown in or a kooky instrument choice. For instance, the guitar and violin can both have rocky solos. In the following track ‘Panel of Glass’ the piano and guitars are purposely grinding against each other to create an uneasy tension whilst the drums have start/stop fits. In both tracks, there are elements where everything suddenly clicks together in a rapturous way and its that switch and click to deliver the juice and the goods which suddenly turns the hairs on your neck up. Only for you to get the goods and then hear Sylvette roar unhinged in explosive rock moments. It is a daring set up but the band nail it time and time again.
‘The Owl’ merges thrashing guitars and rolling drums with a glorious jazzy hands vocal arrangement. Then the track spirals off into a psyche-punk second half that would equally feel at home in a Halloween ball or a rock concert. The violin arrangement here is stunning as they trill and thrill. On the flipside ‘Memories (falling)’ allows the guitars to take centre stage with an Arabian tinged flex on how to let a band jam meaningfully. Sylvette has a flow to their music and togetherness you just don’t find in 90% of rock these days. This Eastern influence continues with the gypsy rock epic ‘Surrender’. You’ll feel like you are travelling in a dark caravan spiral with the love child of T-Rex, Brendan Perry and Muse. Their latest single ‘Kelpius’ is a superb synth-rock anthem that shows how complex and layered the band build up their tracks. Fans of bands like Clock Opera and artists like Jonsi will feel right at home with the synth sparkle grunge pop.
Sylvette refuses to skimp on production, inventiveness and artistic craziness. Even when they bring out tracks that you could almost call ballads, they continually push their creativity. ‘Sometimes I Pretend’ is a wonderful piece that moves from electric piano haunted lullaby to jangle jazz to art-rock via the psychiatric ward. ‘Lobotomy of Love’ shows the bands sweeter side with waltzing melodies, lilting violins and a beautiful falsetto that could melt your heart if you hadn’t had it cut out in the lyrics. It shows the Sylvette know when less can be more as the violins creak and cry. This allows the album to quiet to a brass and woodwind hush for the disarming ‘Divide Myself’ which feels like a lost Bjork track. Its simplicity and beauty hit you right in the feels as warm brass allows the innocent-sounding vocals to feel so vulnerable and intimate. After an album of wonderfully detailed production, this feels decided pure.
Easily one of the best things I’ve heard this year, ‘Stiller Than Still’ is Better than Best. Inventive, unique, full of hooks and emotional tendrils, this is exactly what I was looking for in today’s music. This will feature very highly on my personal albums of the year list and I hope many of you will discover Manchester’s best-kept secret.
Recommended track: Kelpius
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