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Brian Parnham: The Broken Silence

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This album by Brian Parnham is another entry from the "school of Steve Roach." The sound-vocabulary that Parnham uses is very much like Roach's, with floating synthesizer chords, rattles, rainsticks, ceramic percussion, gongs, sampled natural and man- made sounds, and didgeridoo notes. This is all enhanced and made rhythmic by the use of (digital) looping devices. But Parnham's choice of chords and harmonies is somewhat different from Roach's familiar gestures. Parnham's sense of pacing and timing is much slower and more repetitive than Roach's. He is less likely to change a musical formula in mid-stream than Roach, which means that he can, in places, go on too long with the same thing.

The Broken Silence has three pieces on it, two shorter ones with an almost half-hour long piece in the middle. The first piece, "Forthcoming," chugs along with a steady loop-driven rhythm, somewhat like Roach's work in the mid-90's on Origins and Artifacts. The second, long piece, "Solace in Solitude," is again inspired by the longer slow ambient Roach works such as To the Threshold of Silence (from Roach's World's Edge ,) or his later Slow Heat. "Solitude," for most of its length, runs through a slowly repeating, softly played modal sequence on synthesizer, accented by various percussion sounds. Later on in the piece, the percussion noises collect together in a rather irregular rhythm, accompanied by eerie wails in the distance.

The third piece on the album, "Silent Millennium," is in my opinion the best, as it uses the familiar "floating chords" and percussion to build up an intense vision of "space desert," In other passages it evokes surrealistic and disturbing vistas of modern ruins, even while incorporating (as the album claims) broadcasts recorded at the time of 1999 rolling into 2000.

Brian Parnham, in his album notes, thanks Steve Roach for "initiation and telepathic assistance." Whether this is serious or simply metaphorical, it shows that Parnham is very much in debt to the Tucson master. And, like all the other disciples in the "Roach school," Parnham needs to find more of his own voice while still retaining the sense of wonder and vast open spaces that characterizes this "space desert" style.


Title: The Broken Silence | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Floating Point

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