THE SILENT LEAGUE The Orchestra, Sadly, Has Refused (File 13)
With its none-more-brown artwork and front cover subtitle "Music and songs by The Silent League", "The Orchestra, Sadly, Has Refused" appears positively Bacharachanalian, like some long-lost easy listening album dusted down for ironic appreciation. Yet, being an extracurricular activity of Mercury Rev keyboard player Justin Russo, created with the assistance of that band's guitarist Sean Mackowiak and bassist Jason Russo, it's not a staggering surprise to discover that The Silent League play a diluted version of the cosmic American music developed by the Rev and The Flaming Lips over the course of their last two albums, almost as if Russo is attempting to capture the essence of Dave Fridmann's alchemical production magic without recourse to the assistance of the man himself.
'Diluted' in this context doesn't necessarily count as a criticism. "The Orchestra, Sadly, Has Refused" burrows beneath the obvious - you'll find no "Do You Realize??" or "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp Here" - down to a substratum of elusive melody and heartstring-plucking atmosphere that sounds like 40 minutes of gentle exhalation. These songs are shot through the healing possibilities of music: as the title overture counsels, "Put your favourite record on/Close your eyes and sing the song/You're right back where we all belong".
There are many moments here that snag in the memory: the weeping George Harrison guitar sound of "Goliath"; the "Pepper"-esque opening orchestra tuning on "Motion Pictures"; backing vocals straight out of the Velvets' "Caroline Says" decorating "Conversation"; the echo of Thunderclap Newman's "Something In The Air" that reflects off "Linus"; "Hey You Hurray"'s coda's homage to the Pachelbel derangements of Eno's "Discreet Music", bathed in Morse encoded radio static. Yet to unpick "The Orchestra, Sadly, Has Refused" is to meddle with its symbiotic power. This is slight but winsome music, perfect for anybody for whom the sentence "I think I've got enough Mercury Rev albums" holds no meaning.