Two years ago, Silent Forum released Sanctuary+, a cassette-only compilation issued through Oddbox, that collected together a handful of the band’s essential singles and EP’s recorded between 2015-2017. For die-hard followers of Cardiff’s indie-noir outfit this was a sign of progress, proof positive that the band had left some sort of imprint on the capital’s music scene. At the same time, however, it felt like the end of an era too – despite his captivating stage presence, frontman Richard Wiggins (think Ian Curtis, Samuel T. Herring and Marcel Marceau all rolled into one) remained the best-kept secret in Welsh pop; the band still hadn’t secured a conventional record deal and they were largely absent from the nation’s radio stations too. And all this at a time when fellow Cardiff combo Boy Azooga, playing to an audience of millions on Later…with Jools Holland, seemed to have hit the top jackpot on the first spin of the wheel.
The group’s frustration with the Welsh music establishment was evident on “How I Faked The Moon Landing”, a groovy, six-minute epic that railed against the band’s continued underdog status. Indeed, the song’s key line ‘We’re destined to be a local band not on local radio’, while being laugh out loud funny, was a disarmingly honest appraisal of the group’s prospects. There was a delicious irony, then, in events as they unfolded in the summer of 2018 – a song furiously lamenting a lack of radio exposure was suddenly ever-present across the airwaves. Soon enough, DJs, bloggers and music critics were including the track in their ‘best of 2018’ playlists. The frenetic follow-up single “Robot” reinforced the impression that this was a band on the up and an album deal with Libertino was announced before the summer was out.
While it’s entirely predictable that Everything Solved at Once, Silent Forum’s confidently constructed debut album should kick off with the uber-pop of killer single “Robot”, the pair of tracks that follow thrillingly confound expectations*. “Spin” is a hypnotic maelstrom of fractured guitar licks and soaring vocals, while “Safety In Numbers”, an atypical ballad built around interweaving melody lines, overlapping vocals and an intriguing meditation on friendship (the tune drifts to a close with a roll call of band members and a status update as to their well-being), is a stunning track that speaks to the band’s versatility and ambition. Side 1 (the revival of vinyl means that we can write about albums in these terms once again), concludes with “A Great Success”, a number that surges along on a classic indie-noir riff, before climaxing in a stadium-sized chorus, and the curiously-titled “Credit To Mark Sinker” (a music journalist, if you were wondering), which sees Wiggins channelling his inner Robert Lloyd. Despite an intriguing lyric, it’s probably the least effective track on show here.