Having garnered quite a bit of critical acclaim, and something of a cult following from both his Sea Legs collaboration with Ciaran Lavery, as well as a string of experimental EPs, it’s pleasing to see (and hear) Ryan Vail’s first full-length delivering the goods. An exercise in delicate, yet at times pulsing, electronic modern-classical, For Every Silence marks a positive point of no return for the Derry songwriter and composer.
Interlaced with a warmly haunting beauty, Vail’s inspiration by way of his family’s antique piano is felt throughout the record and gives it a humanistic atmosphere, even when at times the listener is confronted with whirring, jagged bleeps and samples. Tracks like ‘1927’ and ‘Wounds’ display this intriguing dichotomy that draws on a sentiment of the old versus the new; the organic warmth of the former bleeding into the colder, angular sounds of the latter. Composition, then, is at the very heart of this album – songs are crafted into form rather than peppered with multitudes of trial and error.
As you move deeper into For Every Silence there is a sense that Vail has taken this approach not only to each individual cut, but to the progression of the album itself. Elements of electro, house and ambient are dispersed in amongst moments of reflective tinkling keys and breathing, ebbing swells of tone. The clanging energy of ‘Faces’, for example, gives way to softer atmospherics with ‘Above The Whitewash’, and so on until the album closes on ‘My Mechanical Insides’ (listen to the very end!) – but this journey of sorts is deliberately contradictory in where it lets us stop along the way, before merging into a rhythmic arrangement that draws from each point. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does, because Vail, simply put, is the driving force behind each inflection in tone and change in pace.
Striking, contemporary yet classical, and full of varying levels of energy and scope, For Every Silence is an excellent debut album from Vail.