CFCF – Exercises EP

The Exercises EP represents an intricate yet minimalist collection of piano and synth-centred tracks from CFCF – Montreal-based producer Mike Silver. The Phillips Exeter Academy Library which features on the cover of this eight-track EP sets the scene for Silver’s evocation of place, and of the emotions we derive from such places. Building on the cinematic aesthetic of 2009’s debut LP Continent, CFCF has shaped a refined EP which adds to the plethora of musical avenues and genres he has already explored.

Opener Exercise 1 (Entry) begins saturated in melancholic piano, yet builds in intricacy to become entwined with swells of synth reverb and trickling arpeggios. Being such a soothing introductory track, it suggests a deep emotional resonance is to be found throughout the EP. Exercise 2 (School) resembles the ambient keyboard-based work of Aphex Twin, coupled with a syncopated dub rhythm and drawn-out synth lines reminiscent of Vangelis. The track maintains this unique concoction of styles, yet is feels repetitive and lacks some of the powerful dynamics seen on later tracks.

A clear standout is Exercise 3 (Buildings), in which Silver focuses on evoking a sense of place through the layering of crescendoing instruments. Built on a base of Philip Glass-esque minimalist piano, the song’s sweeping arpeggios are haunting yet entrancing. Building with layers of erratic synth lines, the lack of percussion is compensated for by the intwining of various synth-based arpeggios. As the layers build – they seem to feed off each other – a controlled chaos ensues. The great use of dynamics calms the approaching crescendo as the track fades out.

The sole vocal track is Exercise 5 (September) – a cover of the lead track from David Sylvian’s 1987 album Secrets of the Beehive. CFCF’s version, complete with 2-step percussion and electronic beats, is a refreshing synth-pop take on the original, and does justice to Sylvian’s song. Silver’s hushed vocals are strong yet unassuming; the mood he creates, by coupling this vocal tone with the original lyrics of “We say that we’re in love / While secretly wishing for rain”, is elegant and adds to the overall ambience of the EP.

Exercise 7 (Loss) is driven by dark and strangely emotive piano lines. Subdued, they mix with swirls of synth reverb – the track shifts to evoke a down-tempo Jean Michel Jarre. The electronic beats of the final track Exercise 8 (Change) close out the EP in an atmosphere which takes on a sombre post-dubstep aesthetic – its echoing percussion encompasses the terrific sense of place CFCF is able to create.

An eight-track EP may seem like a mini-album, however Exercises is simply a taste of CFCF’s diverse musical talents. As a collection of intricate yet minimalist tracks, the EP suggests we can expect the unexpected from future releases; as a concoction of different styles all merged within ambient electronica, Silver has utilised Exercises to broaden his ever-expanding musical reach. There are moments of heavy repetition, which is to be expected from such a minimalist style, however CFCF exploits these moments to evoke the sense of a cold and constructed modernist environment.