You wonder whether James Page heard The Antlers’ Peter Silberman’s solo album earlier this year and cursed his luck a little bit; after all, it would appear the New Yorker had beaten him to the punch as far as the unique selling point of this second album under the Sivu moniker is concerned. ‘Sweet Sweet Silent’ was apparently inspired in no small part by his diagnosis with Ménière’s disease.
Like Silberman’s ‘Impermanence’, the hushed tones of which were a response to a raft of devastating hearing problems of his own, Page’s album is a subdued affair, all quavering vocals, barely-there percussion and touches of piano. That’s not to say there isn’t a little bit more going on in the background - on ‘Lonesome’, for instance, there are snatches of off-kilter ambient noise running in the background throughout - but the subtle production from alt-J collaborator Charlie Andrew ensures that most tracks are bathed in a low-key glow.
It’s an uneven listen, although that sometimes plays in its favour; Page’s vocal delivery is consistently unpredictable. He’s gossamer thin one minute, on ‘Blood Clots and Pheromones’ for instance, and wracked with pain the next - see the compelling second half of ‘Childhood House’. Ultimately, it’s hard not to feel that the record drifts a little, and on an album as quiet as this one, you wonder whether James could have made more of the negative space in terms of feel and atmosphere. In the circumstances, though, it might be a miracle that he’s managed to turn out another record at all, let alone one that feels as accomplished as this.