65daysofstatic – Silent Running
Record Label: Dustpunk Records
Release Date: November 14, 2011
Let’s address the elephant in the room: there’s no denying that Silent Running is a new book of rules for 65daysofstatic. In fact, it may split the fanbase even more than We Were Exploding Anyway, the band’s official entrance into dance floor territory. Even moments before my first listen, I was skeptical—excited, sure, but definitely skeptical. But then the climax of “Overture” flooded my ears, and any doubts I had dissipated right there.
You see, ultimately this review is not about a debate between glitchy math-rock and downright clubby electro-rock. It’s not about selling out, or betrayal or any one of several hundred reactions that fans have whenever their favorite band decides to explore uncharted areas. The fact is that Silent Running is another top-notch album recorded so far by this brilliant and downright humanistic band.
But before we get any further, the elephant: unless you’re absolutely complacent in the work you’re putting out, or unless you’re a smash hit and your record label is going airport security on you in order to prevent the magic from escaping, if you’re a musician, your music will change. It’s an inevitable, inarguable fact of the process. Inspiration can strike in many forms, whether in the discovery of a new genre, a new artist, or just new experiences out on the road. For 65daysofstatic, inspiration just happened to strike in the form of a fairly obscure 70’s science fiction film.
The origins of this film bolster the root tendencies of this band to unprecedented heights. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that Silent Running the film is set on a spacecraft containing the last traces of plant life that remain in a time when all plant life on Earth has been destroyed. These are heavy, heavy themes: isolation, despair, rebirth, and many other big words that we haven’t seen this band grapple with before. Now, 65dos has always been a band that depends solely on expression and loud, glorious noise to make their points, but the addition of motifs to their work ties the whole shebang together. Listen to "Burial Scene", let the piano soak in and the drums sweep you away, then try and tell me you didn’t feel something; it’s melancholy and yet absolutely warm and intimate in a way that I’m not sure this band has ever been.
As for the former fans of 65dos in the back of the room rolling their eyes, it’s also worth noting that this album assimilates all of the sides of this band as we know it and fuses them together without missing a beat. Old-school fans who complain that the band’s lost the grittiness of their earlier works will be glad to see the static make a return in "The Scattered Disk", a stew of glitch burps and bubbles that soon evolves into what can only be described as the closest this band has ever come to hip-hop. (Maybe that idea can be saved for the next album.) "Broken Ship Ruse" is perhaps the best representation of this album’s duality. While the first half is an angry, distorted system overload that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Fall of Math, but once we’re three minutes deep we get hints of We Were Exploding Anyway synthesizers before the melodies gracefully smash together and complete the transition. It, along with tracks like "Space Montage" and "Finale", is a seamless marriage of the old with the new, and we the audience realize that the tunnel 65dos has constructed for itself just may go all the way to China.
That’s of course, not to say that there aren’t any new developments being made. 65dos has made limited usage of the piano in their work before, but it gains prominence here. The addition serves many purposes, weaving many of the album’s melodic motifs together and bringing a sense of haunting vastness that elevates the stakes—fitting for an album about space. "Rantaloupe" makes good use of the piano, drawing its listeners in and then letting the band spontaneously erupt in the song’s final moments for one last hurrah. A simple payoff, and it’s the simplest payoffs that can often be the most profound.
All of these asteroids, up to this point headed on different courses, finally, perhaps inevitably collide on the breathtaking "Finale". We witness a lone spaceship traversing through darkness before we’re thrust by some sentient force into a new solar system, replete with robot production lines and geysers of orange and red, things always just beyond our grasp but which we’re only seeing clearly for the first time. Like a child taking his first steps, the track wobbles before steadying, and then it takes off on its newfound legs into planets beyond those we know of.
We’ve seen the baby steps of 65daysofstatic. We’ve seen 65dos bawl and scream in the gloriously noisy era of The Fall of Math and One Time For All Time: aggressive, angry, and yet undeniably honest from the get-go. We’ve seen 65dos hit puberty in the experimental years of The Destruction Of Small Ideas: a time that, for all of its ambiguity, still led the band shine when it was trying to fit a bigger pair of shoes. We’ve seen 65dos emerge from the chrysalis in We Were Exploding Anyway, not a detour, but as King Henry the Fifth would say, merely the band “being more itself”. And now, nearly ten years from the genesis of this wonderful, life-affirming band, we have the biggest piece of the puzzle yet: a love letter to both discovery and isolation, to the idea that we, small specks of dust on a planet that doesn’t amount to 1% of the entire universe as we know it, can make a difference despite this irritating fact. That we can still find ourselves amidst a sea of chaos. That maybe space is enormous, but that an idea, a spark, an inspiration, is infinitely larger.
That’s the story of how 65daysofstatic became and continues to be one of the most outstanding bands in the community, a benchmark for what music can achieve, and it’s a saga that will continue to be written for as long as this band continues to blast from the vast expanses of space straight to our headphones.