With this new solo album, we’re presented with Alexis Taylor’s tender side. Written and mostly recorded in lockdown isolation, and based around a loose theme of silence and the ways in which it can be interpreted, it’s as delicate as the Hot Chip frontman has ever sounded. ‘Dying In Heaven’ opens without preamble, plunging the listener into a haze of finely balanced textures: little flicks of pedal steel guitar cutting through a woozy looping melody and the singer’s vocals, slightly cracked, drifting softly through the mist.
‘I Look To Heaven’ summons the mesmeric energy of a hymn – “I turn to Jesus ‘cause no one could save me” he sings over a looping, lullaby-like piano line. Although he’s not religious, the serenity of the divine and the act of surrendering to a higher power became a point of fascination for Taylor as he worked on ‘Silence’. “I wonder how this music was ever created without Him,” he wonders of God on the plaintive ‘Melting Away’.
Although led mostly by tranquil and direct piano, ‘Silence’ still manages to be texturally lavish. Between them, a small band – who worked mostly remotely – provide crucial flourishes. Sam Becker’s creaky double bass weaves its way delicately amid Taylor’s scant piano chords on ‘Death Of Silence’, while Johnny Lam’s little flicks of pedal steel guitar cut through the wooziness on ‘Crying In Heaven’.
The most beautiful moment of all is to be found on the ballad ‘Strange Strings’, when the piano suddenly disappears entirely to leave just a gorgeous orchestral sweep of strings, Taylor’s voice floating around them as if suspended in mid-air. The entirely instrumental ‘Thylacine’, a sweet little solo piano number, shines too. Although restraint and space are fundamental to ‘Silence’, you’re occasionally left yearning for it to push its instrumental experiments just that little bit further.
There’s always been a delicacy to Taylor’s vocals – it’s one of the main reasons that Hot Chip hits such as ‘Boy From School’ and ‘Ready For The Floor’ are so affecting – and they’re impressive when showcased on ‘Silence’.
For all of that, however, the album still displays just one side of his art. ‘House Of The Truth’ began life as an uptempo Hot Chip song that for one reason or another never found its home. You can tell by the way its piano chords build to crescendos then recline into great long-form grooves. It’s a supreme song, yet still sounds like an acoustic cover of something bigger, bolder and more epic. As a platform for Taylor’s softer side, ‘Silence’ is a success, but it’s not the sound of him firing on every single cylinder.
Release date: September 17
Record label: AWAL