A.C.T - Silence

Year of Release: 2006
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 263
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:29:00

I always think of musicals when I think of A.C.T, and not just because their name (sans periods) is an element of stage productions. No, rather this has to do with the almost always happy-toned, cherubic voice of Herman Saming, their endlessly approachable music that is writ large, as if they are projecting to the nosebleed seats, and the whole story-chapter feel to each piece of music. All this is true for their 2006 release Silence, which finds the quintet (plus guests) fully engaged with their music and the creation thereof; each performer is very much in the moment and they aren't jaded at all, nor, at least sonically, cynical. Rock 'n' roll is meant to be fun, dammit, and A.C.T shows that someone remembers that.

That isn't to say this is comedic in a jokey sense, not in the least, but I can imagine that live this band's energy (or Saming's at least) leaves audiences pleasantly exhausted afterward. Of course, there was some humour on Imaginary Friend (the other A.C.T release I've heard), so I can't say there isn't any humour here, but you're just as likely to find a "heavy" song as well ("This Wonderful World," about our planet's current state). And there's some humour in "Out Of Ideas," as it reads like someone fighting through writers block - not a throwaway song because there is a lovely, lacy guitar solo as a highlight. And there's "Call In Dead," which, if the lyrics are accurate*, reads like something we've all felt at times.

Although A.C.T are all over the rock map here, they aren't so eclectic that the pieces sound out of place next to each other. What I mean is, their music is imbued with the soul of the 50s, 60s and 70s - all really in the same track - and this blending allows a song that might lean in one direction to settle nicely beside another that leans another direction. Plus, there are many classic pop-rock touches to this album, making this sound as if it could have easily been released in the mid-80s. Not quite new wave, but certainly could be played alongside. Or maybe we could say a harder edged Squeeze? But, given that A.C.T are eclectic to a degree, you might think of different references for each song, and in some cases, for each element in a song? "Puppeteers," for example, includes some references to ELO, as does "Call In Dead," though those hints of Queen I heard in Imaginary also recur here (but only in this track). And on a couple of occasions, Billy Joel comes to mind, in terms of arrangement, never more so than in "No Longer Touching Ground" (as echoes of "My Life" creep into the phrasings of the verses?).

And - ahem - just based on overall feel, I kept thinking of?. the Grease soundtrack. But that goes back to the 50s feel - Frankie Valli and Four Seasons pop to mind (though they're a 60s/70s band) -- I can imagine A.C.T performing "Sherry," granted with a rockier feel (and these two references came independently, although, oddly enough, Valli sang the movie's theme song?).

Unlike a lot of modern music today, you can clearly hear just what Saming is singing. And perhaps owing equally to production as to arrangement, you can hear every little musical detail woven into their music. So, regardless of whether A.C.T qualify as a progressive rock band or just a very smart, complex rock band, one can't help finding their mix very attractive and appealing.

So, the first 10 tracks are upbeat and energetic, even as they have calmer, lyrical moments -- for example, the first parts of "Hope" have a very intimate feel. The most energetic is the rock 'n' roll rave up called "Useless Argument." Each one stands on its own and stands out, such that I can't say "oh this is my favorite."

The latter 9 tracks, comprising about 20-minutes, form the suite "Consequences" - what starts in a softer, lyrical, manner, in almost a 70s pop-jazz way, but soon gets hard with a heavy, metal attack. It will swing between these two extremes throughout its length. Structurally, with its long intro and stark contrasts between, it reminds me of Spock's Beard circa The Light. All with the feel of a musical, naturally, and Saming's cheerful tone (which doesn't in any way make these pieces feel lighthearted at all). "A Father's Love" is a sweet sounding, pretty track, the backing of orchestration enhancing the lacey feel of the piece. The story it tells is a sad one of loss, regret and the consequences of action or inaction. I'm not sure if it's entirely accurate, but there is a recurrent musical phrase that reminded me of The Stylistic's "You Are Everything?"

I think that A.C.T have come up with a very good album. It is one I have enjoyed listening to over and over again and stands as one of the highlights of 2006. Had I got around to a "top 10" listed for '06, this would surely have been on it. Recommended.

*Though Saming sings clearly, I've not taken dictation; printed lyrics weren't part of the promo edition and aren't on the band's website; so just for general reference, I've used what someone has posted online - good for gist, not for exactness, as I can tell spots where they're wrong.
Truth Is Pain (4:09) / Puppeteers (4:13) / This Wonderful World (4:20) / Out Of Ideas (4:47) / Hope (4:29) / Into The Unknown (3:55) / No Longer Touching Ground (4:11) / Useless Argument (4:49) / The Voice Within (3:55) / Polish, Reduce, And Enlarge (3:55)* / Call In Dead (2:51) / Consequences [The Long One]: Silent Screams (1:58) / Introduction (0:51) / The Millionaire (2:10) / Joanna (3:09) / A Father's Love (2:32) / Memory To Fight (2:43) / The Diary (3:10) / A Wound That Won't Heal (4:32) / The Final Silence (1:36)
*bonus on JP edition

Jerry Sahlin - synthesizers, lead & backing vocals, vocoder & deck of cards
Ola Andersson - electric & acoustic guitars, lead & backing vocals
Peter Asp - bass guitar, synthesizer bass & bass pedals
Herman Saming - lead & backing vocals
Thomas Lejon - drums & percussion

The Acting Orchestra:

Tomas Ebrelius - violin
Hanna Hajslund Hansen - violin
Catharina Holm - viola
John L?fgren - cello

Acting Actors:

Kenny Sahlin - additional lead vocals (2)
Martin Hedin - angry customer (11)

Today's Report (1999)
Imaginary Friend (2001)
Last Epic (2003)
Silence (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin SE

Added: July 22nd 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.myspace.com/actworld
Hits: 1584
Language: english


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