Mike Silver first started making music on his computer when he was 12, and for much of his life kept it fairly private. In 2008, he won a remix contest and slowly began to take his music public, culminating in a series of orignal albums and EPs (his latest, Exercises, was released on Tuesday). Under the name CFCF, he's built an impressive and wide-ranging body of production (he calls his genre "atmospheric electronic music with cinematic undertones"), but his music still retains a certain bedroom quality — an implied quiet, a sleepy intimacy, the close-quarters sensation of a private conversation.
The eight tracks on Exercises, built around looping piano figures and decorated with airy synths, share the hushed feeling of playing records for a stoned friend. "I was listening to Riyuichi Sakamoto's album Playing the Piano, and Phillip Glass," Silver told me over the phone the other day. "Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company, which is very austere early synthesizer music — all very atmospheric and kind of simple." The other inspiration was the brutalist architecture of Silver's native Montreal. "It has its own vibe and breathes in a very interesting way," he says. "It was kind of an attempt to put into sound and music the feeling you get when you're in this place surrounded by this enormous, foreboding concrete material."
The result is bare, slightly chilly, and beautiful in a rescued way. The ideas Silver is drawing on — the immense concrete slabs of University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, the mannered sincerity of Japan's David Sylvian (whom Silver covers on Exercises' best track, "September") — are, or were, dated and unfashionable. "There was a long period of cynicism, I think," he says about the music scenes he was a part of. "I'm really surprised when people still find things corny. If it's legitimately bad, that's fine. But don't be closed-minded."
Silver calls Exercises, and the sounds that inspired it, "a very earnest kind of music," and it is: unconcerned with expectation, open in the best ways, informed by a good DJ's willingness to chase — sorry for using this word — a vibe. He told me that he's working on his Exercises follow-ups: "a pop record in the vein of Peter Gabriel," and a New Age project — "a very commercial version of New Age," he added, "nothing too spiritually deep." And why not? "There's so much room in so many places to get inspiration, it would be crazy to close yourself off," Silver says. "And musical avenues are opening up constantly, and it's informing peoples' music in so many weird ways."
Trax Read is a new and evolving semi-regular feature in which I write about and recommend new music and talk to cool musicians. I'm going to try not to overthink it.