Private Life – Silent Partner
By: Matthew MacDermant
Private Life is the magical intersection of Christopher Royal King (This Will Destroy You) and Sam Chown(Shmu). The California/Texas based collaboration project is a masterpiece mash-up of beats, noise, and instrument, crafted to engulf the listener in an otherworldly and visceral auditory experience. This is the kind of music that flows in through the ear drums and floods the senses. It is intermittently strange, haunting, and contemplative. It is dreamlike, with glints of vivid fleeting enlightenment. It is in this world, but not of this world. Each track is filled with shifting and layered elements of psychedelic, space rock, cyber-synth, dreampop, prog rock, and beats that filled headphones well before the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Fans of Shmu and This Will Destroy You will find this collaboration to be a boon to their musical collection. Private Life is composed of the parts that make both groups amazing in their own right, plus emergent properties that can only come about through a mingling of great minds. Layering the fast-paced beats and shoegaze vocals of Shmu on top of the ethereal void of contemplation that is embodied This Will Destroy You produces a wholly different sound than the two produce independently. It is far more than a combination. It is a restructuring of sound. Listeners will oscillate between meditation and analysis. The baked in layers have us at times digging in to really pull apart all the nuances of this album, and at other times it simply washes over.
Private Life mirrors the inner life. It is a piece that has us thinking and feeling one moment and simply being and experiencing the next. This is the nature of the inner life. Some moments we seek to understand the madness around us and our perception of it. At other times, we simply are. We simply breathe and let it happen as we coast down the river of time. Private Life does the same thing. The beats, the sampling, the instruments, take listeners through countless emotional states, frames of mind, cosmic musings, shifting from one to the other and asking us to sometimes dig in and deconstruct the mystery, while at other times just strap in for the ride. Let’s dive in for a few minutes.
“Hesitation” starts us off on this journey and really pulls us through a weird trip. The short music video really solidifies this never ending, ever shifting journey when it shows a simple maze and a single person who quickly becomes a multitude of people running through a shapeshifting MC Escher-like trip of geometry. The song starts off in a frantic, energetic, pulsing fury. A solid drum line in the background, fading to a bassline, and finally to an incoming layer of ambient shoegaze lyrics that lift us out of the frenetic pace to a more relaxed state above the still pulsing, but quieter beats below. Around two minutes in, the vocals break off and we’re set adrift into a bass line vortex that kicks to a dream of psychedelic noise by minute three. By minute four, pulsing beats and feedback drive us into an endless trance before the vocals pull us back out for another glide on a cloud of dreamy shoegaze lyrics. It all ends, once again in a trance, a void, just like us. I can’t help but imagine myself in space or on a life journey. It has this feel of birth, death, and rebirth, singularity and cosmic expansion, which ultimately leads us back to a void, represented by the trance of incredible beats that only Sam and Chris can produce.
“Silent Partner” bookends the album. This piece is quite sad in feel. It has a melancholy dream tone throughout, characterized by high pitched harmonies and ghostly high pitched tones. This is broken up in the middle by a cosmic blend of cyber-synth tones which had me questioning life, the universe, and everything. This one really takes us up in the clouds and then just fades out. It’s the perfect blend of sadness, longing, and the quest to know and be in this life. The ending fade really closes the EP.
In between, there are nothing but solid hits. “Bloody Blister” is laid back and low tempo with soft soothing vocals. “Paradise” is the height of the psychedelic sound, featuring wavy beats, looping feedback, and amazing sampling (the birds are a great touch). “Dirty Corners” is haunting and creepy. It has an otherworldly tone to it, which carries us beautifully into the finale. The whole thing blends together in a way that is like a story, except that it can’t really be placed into words. It is a story that can only be felt and contemplated, but never captured by human words.
This Will Destroy You and Shmu continue to thrive in their own right, but I sincerely hope that this collaboration continues. There is so much this pair can accomplish together. If they so desire, they can really take this sound to places beyond our mortal comprehension.