The Silence Collective are an improvisational ensemble whose faces and instruments do not always remain the same, but whose righteous mission does. From Songs of the Future to RiverChants, their efforts often highlight scary inequities that are present in our world. Casting a wide net, the former sees the nu-folk collection waxing cautionary thoughts on where we might go if political corruption remains rampant. The latter focuses on the importance of water, a life-giving substance that is having its place challenged in their town of Guelph, as well as, of course, around the world. Both released within a day of each other in late April, one rings it at 33 overall tracks, and RiverChants hits us with a crisp four—the contents of which, however, are heavy.
The RiverChants version of the Silence Collective is comprised of 10 artists, ranging from poets, to multi-instrumentalists purveying in cello, cornet, and guitar, but also waterfall kalimbas, let alone non-instruments given new aural life like BetaBlocks and Klepsydras. It’s a full-on ode to water and a reminder of its scarcity, that we must treat it as sacred, as it is. It’s percussive, invigorating noise with incredible intent, constantly bending with the flow of new sonic introductions, acoustic or electric or otherwise, with ease, just as water flows. It’s difficult to ascertain each movement on its own, other than to say that, together, they feed into a whole. If not the catchiest release you’ll hear this year, it might well be the most artistically free, and the most important.
On RiverChants, the Silence Collective says…
RiverChants was conceived to deepen our understanding of the plight of water as well as to celebrate the sinuous waterways that surround and shape the city of Guelph. Our hope is that the expansive soundscapes and imaginary waterscapes of RiverChants transport you both upstream and downstream––and that you experience the deep reservoir of stories, memories, and sonances of the Speed, Eramosa, and Grand Rivers.
Despite the unprecedented circumstances arising from the pandemic, RiverChants embodies what poet Karen Houle articulates in The Grand River Watershed: A Folk Ecology as “Ephemeral streams expand[ing] and contract[ing] with variation …
Water circulates as the planet’s lifeblood, sustaining life everywhere, ecologically, rivers act as arterial expressions of hydrology where ceaseless transformation and mutability––from mist and condensation to dewdrops, rain, ice, snowmelt and runoff, waterflow and oceanic wave––are the norm. River sounds carry the melodies of time and space, biotic flux, interconnection and interdependence, local and cosmic meanings.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm