Approaching a ghost
With their first two albums “Ma Non Troppo” (1997), “Unlike A Virgin” (1999) and the soundtrack “Maison des rendez-vous” (2003), the Slovenian band Silence, founded in 1992, quickly gained popularity in Germany through a record deal with Chrom Records and were able to achieve excellent ratings at monthly soundchecks and annual critics’ and audience polls right from the start. Boris Benko and Primoz Hladnik dedicated their new album “Vain” to the Slovenian artist Matej Smolnik alias Vain, who died six years ago under mysterious circumstances, which is why the work has the subtitle “A Tribute To A Ghost”.
From the very beginning, Silence was often placed in the electro-pop corner due to a lack of alternatives, but at the latest the new album hardly does justice to this categorization. Sure, Benko’s ingratiatingly warm vocals are made for soft cuddle-pop, and even the extremely melodic compositions would shine wonderfully in a simple electronic staging, but Silence fortunately never made it so easy for themselves and their hearing and always looked for other than just electronic means. Vain” is marked above all by the melancholy that the death of a beloved person or - as in this case - an esteemed artist evokes. In addition to the atmospherically dense, occasionally also danceable grooves, there are again and again sensitive strings that combine very harmoniously with the electronics and the haunting vocals.
But how did the idea of dedicating the album to the artist Vain, whose drawings and introductory words also adorn the booklet of “Vain”?
“I really don’t know. It’s hard to say when it all started,” Boris finds it difficult to justify. “For years we have carried around many ideas for’Vain’ in our minds, for example the question why the death of an artist increases the value of his work. How can art - the greatest achievement of all - uncover so many profound truths about life? Why is an absurd lie always easier to accept than the truth? Why is free talking about some things as well as death considered taboo? There were myriads of thoughts and ideas like these that slowly ended in’Vain’. First we developed the concept. “Shortly after, the music followed.”
Especially interesting is the unconventional Kraftwerk cover version of “Hall Of Mirrors”, for which Silence could even win Anne Clark as a guest singer, although one wonders how she fits into the concept of “Vain”.
“We were asked if we could contribute a Kraftwerk cover for’Trans Slovenia Express Vol. 2’, a compilation featuring alternative Slovenian acts covering Kraftwerk classics that will be released in a few months. The first compilation was released a few years ago by Mute and was quite successful, so they decided to make a sequel. We chose’Hall Of Mirrors’ because it has the kind of lyrics (dissecting human vanity with amusing perspicacity) that Vain would certainly have loved. It also has an extremely catchy melody,” Boris explains.
The Kraftwerk cover is a good example of Silence’s ability to create an extremely organic feeling even with (almost) purely electronic instrumentation, but that’s also due to the way the band works.
“Well, we were never synthesizer purists. All Silence tracks are first written on the piano or acoustic guitar and then’electrified’. I think the producers of our previous albums saw us as an’electro’ band and transformed our music accordingly to adapt it to this perception. Vain’ is the first album we produced ourselves, so for the first time we had the opportunity to integrate this acoustic side into our sound. These acoustic elements are very important to us because they are so special - they are our fingerprints, the most accurate way to identify us.”
Certainly Silence have also learned a lot through their soundtrack work for the better implementation of atmospheric moments and elements in their music. Now they are already working on two more theater soundtracks and preparing the live performance of “Vain”. Maybe you can experience the band on German stages…