Spencer Grady reviews Sun and Sky and Garden Breeze by Yoni Silver, released under Takuroku — Cafe Oto’s digital label supporting artists in lockdown.

Multi-instrumentalist Yoni Silver has adapted to the confinements of pandemic lockdown by indulging in that classic surrealist diversion, exquisite corpse. Blindly overdubbing a series of self-manned trios with instruments including clarinet, tenor recorder, kalimba, classical guitar, toy glockenspiel, ukulele and slit drum, he has drawn on the kinetics of happenstance to mirror the live intensity of a concert performance from the splendid isolation of his south London garden.

The resulting tapestry shows remarkably few seams, with its rich flux of tonal colours and subtle timbres fading deftly in and out of earshot during a near 30-minute work that maintains its momentum the entire time. Rusty horticultural implements (African hand-percussion and triangle ping like the agitated prongs of a garden fork) appear to exchange gnostic whispers with asphyxiated summer breezes and the constant fluttering of a bewitched exhaust replicates in delicate microcosm the kind of deep cistern-funnelling associated with Pauline Oliveros. Later, clip-clopping woodblocks, warped strings, and what sounds like the mournful subpoena of a shakuhachi flute, imbue the piece with the supernatural ritualism of a Noh play, while simultaneously demarcating the type of enchanted vistas envisioned by master Japanese fabulist Kenji Miyazawa.

Brokering deals between the jostling trios is Silver’s one-shot violin solo, humming and hovering like a honey-bee capering in tandem with a real-life avian singing troupe – the feather-winged choir clearly relishing the lack of extraneous intrusion from manmade fliers. The composer’s own voice momentarily joins the throng – equal parts guttural rumble and belligerent croak – coming over like a particularly aggrieved toad or malcontent death-metal djinn.

The music of Silver and the songbirds ascend and entwine mid-flight before evaporating forever into the ether, fashioning a captivating, scaled-down version of Henning Christiansen’s natural world disorders – the sound of a summer like no other.

All tracks and artwork design by Yoni Silver

You can buy the record here – 50% of profits support the artist and 50% support Cafe Oto.

Spencer Grady is one half of Padang Food Tigers, an ambient-country duo with releases on Northern Spy, Bathetic, Scissor Tail, Blackest Rainbow and Blue Hole Recordings. He’s currently employed as an editor and freelance journalist, working for publications such as Songlines, Jazzwise, Metal Hammer and Record Collector