An ambitiously mythological debut
The elusive Son Silva described his debut eight track EP released in December 2020 as a series of "vignettes," aiming to deal with themes that lay heavy on a person’s chest: love, imbalance, struggle – it’s a vast undertaking on a project that is 31 minutes and entirely self-produced.
In line with this aim at delivering vignettes, the songs on A Love Minute often take nonlinear narratives – there being no clear delineation between his times of struggle and his times of strength. As subject matter clashes, the artist sometimes sounds like addressing a love interest, a friend, or sounding as if he’s figuring things out for himself in real time. The siren that begins ‘Enter, Venus Endeavour’ opens the project in a grounded city life, dropping into plucked strings to form a backdrop that is unmistakeably cinematic; shifting from that dramatic, layered beginning after a few cacophonous screams. Silva is introspective, shifting through meditations on gentrification, sins, violence, and villainy, his singing moving into a breathless staccato. You can imagine him sitting with his hands over his face, his voice rumbling through the gaps in his fingertips as he rocks back and forth.
This is an MC willing to lay every pain or anxiety bare. Throwing his deepest inner thoughts and stories down in front of him like a old Roman vase, the tracks form as he attempts to assemble shards of musical terracotta, with cracks cemented through loose allusions to mythology. The drone in the back of ‘Midnight Oil’ sounds like a voice, shrieking in pain as his headspace spills into view, rattling off dense internals and painting with short clipped lines, as he compares his pen to “German expressionism”. His brushstrokes are sometimes a little too broad, leaving the listener searching helplessly for the meaning beneath the canvas, but when Silva plunges down he shows his potential to hit gold, with the guttural command to "twist my ligaments / bend my tendons" as he begins to yearn on his knees, throwing up yearnings for something satiate his hunger, elucidating exhaustion-inducing torrents of images.
The most direct track, ‘Jade Gate’, announces itself directly as a love song and proves Silva’s ability to pen a well formed hook. The delivery of "we are not friends / I do not love you / we are locked in…" is instantly sticky, and the staccato flow that follows fits nicely with the morose, gentle backdrop. I can’t help that feel the song slightly outstays it’s welcome, but the "manuka honey brown / bathed in sun" is a remarkably pretty lyrical moment, delivered with a sweetly smooth tone. ‘Ouroboros’ is a more concrete reference to the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail, as Silva’s lyrics move even more into the mythological, detailing blood spilling, crystal balls, and seeming to paint himself as the villain he alludes to. The origin of his own evil is as unclear as the hazed cover, at times making him brilliantly sinister.
The four minute ‘Subastral Interlude’ is an impressive display of the cinematic elements that Silva is comfortable deploying, shifting saxophone over an atmospheric base, with drums slowly echoing and building as Silva moves from contemplative "kaleidoscope visions", images of housing estates, a pen being sharpened, and contemplating the balance between his own tendencies towards the "real" and the "visceral." It’s an interesting question, as Silva’s most visceral moments are often where he feels his most real, the rest of the track displaying this quality – asserting himself as "Son Silva, Mr Son Silva". The positing of this track as an interlude seems an odd choice as it functions in tandem with the majority of the tracklist, shifting through motifs and ideas.
Terming the track an ‘interlude’ seems slightly odd on an EP that constantly recalibrates itself between songs. The project has so many transitional moments and detours that the idea of this as a pit stop feels perhaps a little unneeded. It's this instantaneous movements of instrumentals in and out, or short ideas such as the outro to ‘Pegasus’, or the soul sample to start 'Ouroboros' that deliver this “vignette” notion well, and the sonic palette is consistently dimly lit, reflective of his tone.
Silva’s voice is emblematic of his fearlessness, remaining as completely unafraid of taking risks with his vocal inflections as he is with his production. ‘Kisses II’ sees his voice enter with tinges of autotune and move to an urgent shout, a cry skywards, and into a soft harmony. He transitions in delivery well, his voice remaining slippery and malleable between the same slightly mythological references. There are some occasional deliberate notches in flow which play up the unmediated tone of his voice. ‘The Conjuress’ is a display of this, with synths heavy with reverb and brittle snares as Silva’s opening lyrics in Spanish move tentatively into song, layered voices sounding almost unsettling, with chirping birds bringing the project to a close.
The accompanying short clips of London uploaded to his Instagram mirror the contemplative, instantaneous feeling of the project, mirroring sides of himself, day and night, contrasting gradients, sometimes darker mythological images – a sword standing upright, or a man being throttled. The struggle that the project is borne from gives it this feeling of slipping, tumbling between images and fuzzy allusions. The vision he sometimes alludes to is formed by woozy introspections which move towards myth, but remain grounded in modernity.
It’s perhaps a symptom of this experimentation that induces some rough edges to the project, in the shape of moments where it feels slightly like it’s meandering, but overall the eclectic shifts in flow and production help establish Silva as an individual. On A Love Minute, Silva has proven himself to possess ability, enigmatic charisma and admirable boldness, but most importantly he is absolutely brimming with ambition. This is a solid basis for the newcomer, and he can only get better.
- 7.5 -
'Enter, Venus Endeavour', 'Pegasus', 'Ouroboros'
Fin Cousins is a postgrad literature student studying at Kings College, London. He loves sport, music and writing and he is still waiting for Love Island to accept his application. He also made our logo.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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