Sometimes, Silence






Sometimes, Silence is a five-track EP by Edinburgh-based Steven Shade aka Sevendeaths, or rather: it is the five-track EP. To my knowledge, Shade has not released any solo project since 2010. There are good reasons, for this skilled Drone and Shoegaze maestro is also an important part of the Synth Rock band American Men whose gorgeously retrogressive sounds constantly oscillate between uplifting riffs and melancholic phases. It turns out that Sometimes, Silence is based on the very same mixture, delivered here in a purely beatless Ambient form. Better still, the EP is available for free at Bandcamp. Although Sevendeaths himself files his music away under the Doomgaze label, I would not go this far. While there are indeed apocalyptic notions baked into each of the five sceneries, they are also perfectly balanced and unveil a shimmering core of beauty even in those cases where the power drones burst and blast everything away. To me, Sometimes, Silence is an important work. I am admittedly a big fan of American Men, their songs are constantly on my jogging playlist, but even those listeners who are not too fond of their music or do not know it at all should be pleased. This solo EP shares many sound-related characteristic traits with the quartet, for instance the arpeggiated particles and sparkles as well as the hidden organ washes that underline and interpolate the respective feeling. The ensuing collision hints at cyberspace landscapes, Japanese bit-crushed chip dioramas and the sounds of electric current floating through the ether. 


The Wheels Drowned kicks off the EP as an artifact of indifference and conflicting layers, though I myself did only notice this quite recently, for it seems to be perfectly streamlined: lachrymose and distantly bagpipe-resembling drones coalesce with static noise frizzles, radio noise gallimaufries and dark matter strings which also provide the low frequency frame of this tune. Adjacent star dust spirals coruscate around this aorta. The melodies whirr comparably quickly, the song feels dynamic yet solemn. And it is here where the indifference sets in, since shadiness and languor are deeply entangled, the aura seems bright and upbeat yet crestfallen and nostalgic. It does not necessarily depict the color palette of the front cover as it glows in warmer timbres, but this is due to the powerful, dominating Shoegaze style swallowing the more mellifluous and fragile particles. Without overanalyzing this tune any further, so I hope, The Wheels Drowned is also a strong, seemingly self-explanatory title. When the final four-note states of the melody fade away, the listener is left with coldness, the sheer vigor of their acidic nature deceases. The following Letters Of Indifference provides a stark, piercing contrast to the previous soundscape. It is a Power Shoegaze song with anything but hyper-saturated incisive guitar layers and a galactic-ecclesiastic organ layer as a backdrop. The glaring luminescence of the superior layer outshines everything of this plastic pompousness, there is not even a bassline attached. The big plus is the strangely emotive duality of euphony and mournfulness, the title again implies it all, but does not reveal the neon colors blasting their way through the endemic bleakness.


Up next is A Sinking Relief, and it is here where fans of the Synth Rock band American Men will rejoice, as Shade unleashes the bubbling velocity the collective is known for and embeds it in a beatless, pure Ambient track of the strongest kind. Launching with mournful chords of haziness that could have been the sunset phase of any material presented here, the applied reverse order makes them the point of origin to a majestic crescendo. Arpeggiated structures gyrate around the threnodic moisture, slowly preparing the listener for more exciting times. Static noise-perturbed electric guitar streams of the overdriven kind then merge with the cyberspace-inducing spirals the band is known for, even though this is a one-man show. The song now unfolds gorgeously texturized 16-bit territories – which is a strange remark to make, given the fact that most 16-bit video games lacked textures – with all their bleepiness and square leads, it is a hymn to the microchips in the veins of Stellar OM Source, Panabrite and Teengirl Fantasy, only slightly quirky and all the more supercharged with excitement and vibrant colors. A Sinking Relief is freed from previous apocalyptic notions and towers majestically above the EP. It is a gargantuan Ambient anthem! After such a humongous tune, it is hard to come up something that is even distantly on par. The pernicious Childbone is consequently another Shoegaze piece of the, well, bone-crushing kind due to its harsh static noise constructions, abysmal bass bursts and tense backing synths which underpin the seriousness of an unmentioned incident. At times, the tune even crosses the line into Gothic realms, for the backing organ presents many clichéd castle-shaking tone sequences. This is Power Drone all right! The final Summerland uses an interesting nostalgia layering technique in the form of a vignetting filter or semi-transparent veil: the rather complex and cautiously optimistic melody layers as played on the guitars and synths are strangely fuzzy and quiet, the volume level is constantly low, everything seems to reach the listener’s ears from a distance, from a past that is long gone. This perception is even augmented in the context of the prior songs which were ebullient and voluminous. After more than three minutes, the second phase of Summerland is reached which is equally fragile, but comprises the quirkily arpeggiated synth droplets that already made A Sinking Relief such an enormous hit. With these pristine vesicles happily in order, the EP ends on a discreetly jocund note.


Sometimes, Silence shows how important Steven Shade’s sound is for his band American Men, but one would be ill-advised to reduce its value to this simple connection, although it plays a defining role. It is often hard to follow all the side projects of any collective's band members with the same interest as the compositions they create together or are primarily known for, but in the case of Steven Shade's Sevendeaths moniker, the reward is magnificent. The towering centerpiece A Sinking Relief is the point of intersection between the band and the solo project, its bubbling state of yearning bliss an oxymoron, but well-working. One can literally sense that this tune would benefit greatly from an added breakbeat, but in its current form, it pleases the specific needs of the Ambient crowd. This particular track paints the panoramas of neon-lit cyber cities and is thus akin to the New Age genre. The two Power Drone/Shoegaze concoctions Letters Of Indifference and Childbone are enormously piercing, but at the same time the ultimate realizations of their genres, with piles of gigantic guitar strings and synth streams. The final track is connected to these fields, but toned down, decreased in volume so that it feels like a distant memory or figment. The effect is well-known and not at all inventive, but it works flawlessly in the given context, since one's ears are still droning from the aftermath as delivered by Childbone. Due to the fact that this EP is available for free, I cannot recommend it highly enough and hope that programmer Steven Shade will interrupt his code hacking work sometime soon in order to resume his work as Sevendeaths. A remarkable EP that remains under the radar despite its pompous clarity. Not to be missed any longer!



Further listening and reading:

  • You can download Sometimes, Silence for free at Bandcamp.
  • Follow Sevendeaths/Steven Shade on Twitter: @sevendeaths.




Ambient Review 221: Sevendeaths – Sometimes, Silence (2010). Originally published on May 29, 2013 at