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"Hitman" by The Silver Wye

Review

Out right now is a new single by The Silver Wye entitled "Hitman": their first new release since "Cold Light" came out in June 2020, followed by a compilation of their previous singles called ‘First Wave' in September 2020 escorted by a companion collection called ‘Variations' which comprised live versions of "Cold Light", "Pick Me Up" and "Just My Luck" plus a demo of a song called "Gospel Oak".

Although much of their work tends towards the optimistic and associations with light & hope, the premise of The Silver Wye which founder Wes Finch imbued it with at its birth, to offer an alternative, more processed sound compared with his expected approach, also provides him a spikier route, not just sonically but also thematically. Thus the stunning "Getting Place" was positively diabolical in nature & likewise "Hitman" turns its gaze towards the dark.

An indictment of the spurious glamour with which entertainment media is prone to imbue professional murderers, the topic reminded me of The Clash's 1978 "Tommy Gun" which while speculating on the likelihood of terrorists checking up on their own press for self gratification, also drew down criticism from those too dense to understand what they were saying ("irony is lost on pinheads" Elvis Costello sighed at the time). Thankfully I think Wes' audience can process irony as it is really the best vehicle or such observations & he deploys it accordingly here: though in a way very sonically distinct from The Clash.

Oddly enough the song has another slight Clash connection as part of its narrative follows that of the 1984 Stephen Frears movie "The Hit" with its focus on an English hitman & in which Joe Strummer apparently was originally intended to play the part which eventually gave Tim Roth his film debut.  Equally the song possesses a Latin flavour, new to the Silver Wye canon, which echoes that of that film's soundtrack.

Other touchstones might include Stephen Soderbergh's 1999 film "The Limey" (which stars Terence Stamp, who was also in "The Hit") but I really cannot spot any obvious references to "The Day of the Jackal", perhaps the best known "English hitman" movie, though that's hardly surprising as trying to include any French musical motifs might be quite jarring given the clear setting of wide open spaces, possibly somewhere adjacent to the US southern border.

Chiming guitars which tend towards the flamenco at times speak of dry & heat, whitening skulls in the desert and dirty deeds done under the blazing sun yet unseen due to their remoteness. The devil, last met in "The Getting Place" is back here to lend a hand too.  Although the trademark Ry Cooder slides are not much in evidence, there is a general feel of some of his great soundtracks for films set in similar places and maybe even a sly dropped in "One More Cup of Coffee" Dylan reference.

Dating from the Crooked Room sessions studio in Yorkshire with producer Isaac McInnes and Bradley Blackwell, (the bass player in The Howl & The Hum) which produced all the band's material to date bar their debut "Pick Me Up", as further recording has been difficult since then, Wes has returned to "Hitman" and completed it for release.

I don't know where The Silver Wye is likely to go next, but at this rate there is potential for a future compilation with maybe one side dedicated to the Devil's tunes & the other to their counterparts as the band do seem very good both at evoking evil incarnate and that which opposes it: a strange & striking dichotomy….

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"First Wave" by The Silver Wye

Review

Normally the autumnal equinox is precisely the time we'd look for a new release from The Silver Wye. However since current conditions have precluded any further recording to date, they have compiled their five singles into one album which is available on Bandcamp now

Presumably with a big nod to the times which we are living through & which are preventing more Silver Wye recording sessions for the time being, the compilation is named ‘First Wave' and is available here:

https://thesilverwye.bandcamp.com/album/first-wave

 

All their work is here: from debut & Silver Wye manifesto setting, the exquisite "Pick  Me Up"  through the even more ethereal "You Are Light" to the most recent  Casey Neistat  tribute "The Cold Light" taking in "Just My Luck" (the song in the collection perhaps most close to the "normal" style of Silver Wye writer Wes Finch and which also appears on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two') to the astonishing "Getting Place"  which must be among Wes' finest compositions & performances of his entire career. Please do feel free to refresh your memories of our reviews of all of them in the magazine.

The project is Wes' way to explore outside the expectations his main body of work has raised among his fans, so we get a lot of sonic exploration & processing involved. Apart from this, the threads which bind the Silver Wye together are a bit more elusive: the tendency to release songs in sync with the heavens (e.g. solstices), another which tends towards the supernatural & spiritual: everything from transcendental beauty to Lucifer, but otherwise the five tracks don't sound especially similar nor do the lyrical themes necessarily fit any other pattern.

I imagine the Silver Wye is intended to surprise us as well as enlighten us, so I very much look forwards to the "Second Wave" or possible the "New Wave"...

Credit too to the various other members of the project:  Leo Steeds and Luke Dibbs who worked on "Pick Me Up" with Wes at The Milking Parlour Studio in Warwickshire and producer Isaac McInnes & bassist Bradley Blackwell at Crooked Room studio in Yorkshire for the other four songs.

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"The Cold Light" by The Silver Wye

Review

Last night was another Full Moon (and a strawberry one at that, with an added penumbral lunar eclipse) and that these days means a new single from the Silver Wye: this time a song by the title of "The Cold Light".

To be honest, getting my head round this band has been an interesting & stimulating journey over its five song/single career to date. Releases around celestial events are a reliable hallmark, as is the general intention of the project to allow songwriter/singer/guitarist Wes Finch to explore more electronic & processed sounds.

However my attempts to nail down a simple theory about what the songs are about have not been totally successful.  One pattern is the "light" motif: the third single was "You Are Light" and that fits well with the lunar releases. There are generally spiritual vibes if not whole themes at play, though this pattern  gets a bit contorted (or maybe distorted) by the fourth one, the chilling "The Getting Place" where the mood & tone is the supernatural end of the spectrum rather than the more benign one the others inhabit...

At least three are addressed to others who may be lovers or at least loved ones: hymns, pleas, thanks, requests etc and I suppose "The Getting Place" is a warning of sorts.

"The Cold Light" however is another category altogether as the subject is both a third party (with the possible exception of Lucifer the others have tended to be within the first two grammatical persons) as it is inspired by film maker,  vlogger  and "prolific fun haver" Casey Neistat.

Another  percussion centred song, (courtesy of master drummer Ben Haines & which evolves into a highly melodic ending)  the respect of Wes for the subject manages to come through very clearly (one thing about The Silver Wye project is that the tendency of adding more processes to music & voices in particular to distance the listener from the emotion of the words has been avoided very neatly: Wes has somehow found ways round this or chosen emotions to write about which are actually suited to such sounds: spiky, raw, bruised feelings, opening his heart & betraying guilt or dancing with the devil). However, it is interesting that along with the processed sound single, Wes has recorded & released a live acoustic version of "The Cold Light" which returns to the customary warmth of tone of his singing & playing. I'm not at all sure which (if either) I prefer nor which tells the story more effectively. Perhaps that itself is a point…

 

 I was intrigued by a hark back to his Dirty Band days with a shoe laces motif but otherwise the lyric consists of dense & stimulating layers of imagery (two Silver Wye characteristics seem to be the richness of the allusions which you are invited to seek the meaning of yourself to your considerable eventual advantage and the insistent mantra like repetitions of phrases) around travel, sun rises, time zones & ultimately I suppose revelation & truth (if I understand it correctly). If so it offers hope & promises of clarity which are welcome in the current climate.

 

This is, as well as being their fifth single, the fourth & final song from Wes' Crooked Room Studio session (with Ben, producer Isaac McInnes and bassist Bradley Blackwell). Hence Wes sees it as the conclusion of Phase One of the Silver Wye project: Phase Two though is already underway so please do not worry as it is being carefully created from isolation via file sharing between the participants.

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"Just My Luck" by The Silver Wye

Review

As with their last single, the brooding & allegorical "The Getting Place", The Silver Wye are releasing their latest track "Just My Luck" to mark a Full Moon: this month's in fact. Given that the single prior to that, "You Are Light" came out on the Winter Solstice, clearly celestial events of significance loom large in their decision making & creative processes.

Maybe some light is indeed shining on Wes Finch & his collaborators producer Isaac McInnes and bassist Bradley Blackwell, as the lyrical tone here is almost the mirror image of its predecessor. Whereas in that song, as the review in the magazine suggested, the terrors of woodlands by night, primeval spirits of trees & (were)wolves were being evoked by howls of anguish which increased in their unearthly tone as the track progressed, the protagonist of "Just My Luck" is a much happier fellow and safely returned from the phantasmagorical realm to our own sphere. Perhaps some sort of catharsis has occurred? Or a spell broken? I doubt that this transformation is the result of the Faustian pact sought last time as it does seem a genuine state of mind without any obvious catches.

I understand from Wes that although their fourth release, "Just My Luck" started its life before any of the other songs, as it was "...put on a shelf for a good while before being turned in to this".. (and it did of course pop up too on 'Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two': thank you Wes.

Interestingly, especially after the very outré nature of "The Getting Place" and the sonic surprises of their debut "Pick Me Up", despite being released as part of this project of Wes' to explore new musical sounds (especially more processed and electronic ones), the lyrics in particular come closer than its three predecessors to the sort of song Wes "normally" creates (and he has played this one solo without the full Silver Wye approach, pending their intention to play live this year, a plan which I fear may not go quite to the initial schedule). In fact there is affinity (to my ears at least) with his as yet unreleased masterpiece "I've Got Your Back" in terms of offering unconditional support to someone: quite possibly a lover. In "Just My Luck" for example he sees himself as a tree, a solid rooted haven to provide a perch for a straying bird. Not that the songs are alike in all respects naturally, the sense of contrition for past foolishness not being present in the other song. In fact I get the impression that here he feels he barely deserves a shot at happiness & is mighty fearful that he isn't going to be granted the chance.

The sound is indeed squarely within the Silver Wye tradition with the vocals being processed and the instruments likewise, offering at times an unusual & acerbic counterpoint to the words, but restrained enough not to undermine their meaning & purpose. The guitar in particular rather reminded me of the sort of contributions Andy Summers made in the latter days of the Police.

I wish Wes & the Silver Wye and all of you just as much luck as possible in these trying times: in the meantime I'm sure you'll enjoying this very thoughtful, mature & humane song as much as I did & look forward to hearing the band playing live sometime later in 2020.

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"Getting Place" by The Silver Wye

Review

The Silver Wye, like any great river, rolls majestically on, picking up speed in the release of its songs.

Today, they release their third single, entitled "Getting Place" to celebrate the rising of this month's Full Moon.

(Check out "Hot Music Live" archives for reviews of their previous singles:  "You Are Light" was reviewed on both  October 3rd & December 22nd  2019 and "Pick Me Up" on November 14th 2018).

What an interesting & thoughtful project this is to be sure: there are so many layers to the creative onion: and that's not even taking into account the actual songs.

The first of these I loosely describe to myself as one of transcendence, bordering on the spiritual.

This manifests itself in several ways. It starts with the release of records on days which can either be associated with celestial phenomena, such as today's lunar one or the winter solstice on which "You Are Light" appeared,  or with ancient calendars & cultural celebrations: quite probably both. Next, the artwork, whether the photos or videos, which reinforce this aspect, and lastly of course the themes & feels of the tracks.

The second theme, certainly most pronounced with this single, is a crossover with the focus of another band of The Silver Wye originator Wes Finch, namely The Mechanicals. This latter group set poetic texts from Shakespeare to Larkin and many others, to music & continue to collaborate in a range of literary projects. "Getting Place" in fact contains another complex & dense mesh of allusions: the title coming from Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men" but the lyrics owing much to the work of Shirley Jackson & of Stephen King. This gives the transcendence aspect a much darker twist with the more chilling & sombre side of the supernatural coming to the fore (I wonder if Wes conceived this song as a counterpoint to "You Are Light"?) and of course the full moon has a great beauty but it also has lycanthropic properties. Even Lucifer's original name conveys the idea of light & here the Devil stalks the woods & makes Faustian pacts at the titular location.

Which brings us via a strange path to the song itself, wrought again by Wes at Crooked Room studio in Yorkshire with producer Isaac McInnes and bassist Bradley Blackwell. I hope no Faustian pacts were involved in its making.

No surprises at all in the quality of the writing, performance nor production: just as one would expect. However the track takes another giant step along the path Wes is leading his fans on this project, away from our expectations of the music he does & hence our complacencies within it. The Silver Wye was conceived in order to explore musical styles away from the folk & he has been gentle with us, each release taking us further on that journey. This song certainly has Wes features: his distinctive delivery & inability to escape writing beautiful tunes whatever the context. However the form, though shimmering, is highly rhythmic & this is greatly reinforced with constant repetition of lines & phrases, mantra-like, creating a groove centred track.

This  is far from your standard dance song though: the imagery is to say the least compelling & frequently startling to the point of disturbing. If Wes wishes to shake us up musically, he matches that with the lyrics, twisted pictures being painted over a disarming melody for extra effect. To return to the "No Country for Old Men" theme, the track is almost Coen Brothers in (musical) style for this approach. Who else would write of a "Lyle Lovett smile"? (And let's not forget that in addition to his often sinister smile, Lyle is both another musician & an actor in the sort of films Wes is evoking: layers & layers of meaning just pile up here). A sinister willow, possibly that from Tolkien, also plays a significant & signifying part...

As the track progresses, it twists further: more unsettling chords & small dissonances are added & the vocal delivery gets more terse & anguished. By the end it is a howl of pain & warning: the cheroot smoking  blue suited figure is a real danger that may have been recognised too late. Watch out for him in the wild wood by the light of the full moon my friends..... Whatever deal you make with him, believe me it's not worth it.

 

This is a stunningly effective song on so many levels & it certainly has the potential to be seen as a significant landmark in Wes' musical career. I'd also really like to hear it used on a movie soundtrack where surely its natural home must be.  Quite possibly with Lyle Lovett playing Mephistopheles.  And as I said last time out, look out for Silver Wye live dates in 2020.....

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"You Are Light" by The Silver Wye

Review

Last November, in "Hot Music Live", I reviewed a song called "Pick Me Up" by an entity calling itself The Silver Wye.
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"Pick Me Up" by the Silver Wye

Review

If like me you enjoy the music of Wes Finch you have already heard, maybe one of his solo albums, his work with the (Rude) Mechanicals which I ...
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