One of the ways that independent music is often superior to mainstream music is in the creative and beautiful ways music is packaged and delivered to the listening public (not to even speak of the usual lower level of artistic compromise found in independent music). Small music labels often find unique and beautiful ways to package their music, causing their releases to stand out from among the usual derivative mainstream fare. For at least one release, Illinois’ Lo-Fidelity Records continues in the rich heritage of independent music creating a beautiful overall package of music for the consumer with their 12” vinyl release of Dutch band At The Close Of Every Day’s gracious The Silja Symphony. To be honest, before receiving The Silja Symphony, I knew little about Lo-Fidelity, except that they seemed to major in re-releasing lost Christian-alternative classics from the late 1980’s (or worked with members of the classic bands in their current music initiatives). But, with The Silja Symphony, Lo-Fidelity leaps to the forefront of the music scene with this beautiful limited edition vinyl of sparkling music.
The entirety of this release reeks of quality and creativity, from the beautiful and unique artwork on the sleeve, to the overarching concept of the record, to the actual music, to the bonus four song live CD-EP Live in Amsterdam that falls out of the packaging when one opens their mailbox. It’s clear right from when one does open their package that Lo-Fidelity spared no expense in releasing this project, and the evidence of their hard work and unique vision pays off in a wonderful release that rivals any other special release found in your collection.
Indeed, though one may be impressed right away with the gorgeous artwork and the bonuses attached to this release, the fact remains that the music needs to be memorable for the release to be worth the time and effort. On this point, At The Close Of Every Day deliver a well thought-out and ultimately beautiful collection of songs that are well-suited to the warmth that vinyl brings. Based loosely on a ferry disaster at sea, The Silja Symphony features songs that are divergent in lyrical themes (hope, loss, pain, faith), yet form a coherent and emotional whole, when given their proper context. Dissonant chords and nice drum work herald the beginning of the opening song “The Departure”. The instrumental song features a mournful trumpet, and builds elegantly with gorgeous slide guitars to a mathy postlude. The sound of At The Close Of Every Day is a bit hard to describe, as it features elements of indie-pop, but is usually much more organic, folky, and at times complex, reminding me a tad of Lorna. “September Grass” begins more aggressively, with a rocking, open hi-hat drumming line. Angelic falsetto vocals (a la a male Karin Peris) make their first appearance, immediately giving the song a subtle and light texture. As mathy drums and subtle instrumentation cradle the vocals on the verses of “September Grass”, and as deeper male vocals join in on the catchy chorus, it becomes quickly apparent that At The Close Of Every Day is a band of patience and charm. “The Maria Tales” features a faster tempo…a rock song with a gentle heart. The song features a simple melody buoyed by technical playing (especially by the drummer, but also including the bassist and guitarist, too). “When Their Spirits Surround Me” is a soft piano ballad that builds with swaying guitars and nice slide work into an extended instrumental outro. “Eileen” features more of the band’s technical playing in the midst of a soft feel to the music, while “Tommy” showcases layered vocals over a dark, mellow, sombre mood.
The B-Side of The Silja Symphony is equally impressive, with sweet falsetto vocals, interesting chord arrangements, and expansive choruses (“Higher, Brighter”), to songs that feature field recordings mixed into the sounds of subtle guitars “The Estonia Situation”). All throughout The Silja Symphony, those innocent sounding vocals, interesting and patient arrangements, and surprisingly technical playing set the stage for a calming, yet subtly ominous, collection of songs. The band plays expertly, tightly, and with an attention to detail that creates a work with no weak songs.
For the record, the Live in Amsterdam is in itself a sweet little treat, featuring mellow songs that aren’t as complex as the songs on The Silja Symphony, but are still pretty enough in their own right. Featuring two instrumental songs and two songs with vocals (oddly enough, though, without the angelic falsetto voice that permeated The Silja Symphony). The sound is excellent for a live disc, and the EP as a whole lacks only in its brevity.
Indeed, Lo-Fidelity and At The Close Of Every Day have combined to create a wonderful musical package for the listener. Given that this special release is a limited edition (listeners can track down a CD version of The Silja Symphony through European online retailers), it makes this full-length all the more special. This is a record that needs to be seen and heard in North America. Recommended!