For Koby Silverman’s new album, just his second full-length release, he decided to move in the opposite direction of his previous work, the lo-fi acoustic “Pleasant.”
He struck off in search of ambient electronica, but based his tracks on natural ambience, rather than starting at the computer.
Silverman started bringing a Zoom field recorder along with a camera everywhere he went, “just in case anything arises."
“It’s also for stowing memories,” Silverman said. “It’s essentially taking a photo of where you are, but it’s something a photo can’t give you.”
He used the recorder to track throwing rocks into Flathead Lake, children playing in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and audio from an art installation.
His phone works in a pinch, but the recorder has the capacity to pick up so much more — like on a hike in Sawmill Gulch when he captured a friend yelling across the valley, her voice echoing and bouncing.
That echo becomes the primary sample in “Moth Laboring,” off Silverman’s new dual release “tash/a.2,” out earlier this month.
“Tash,” with its black-and-white straight-line collage cover is the rawer of the records, while “a.2” cleanly floats along with its bright, rippling water cover.
The sort-of double album is either available as two sides of a single cassette or as separate album downloads and streams on Bandcamp and Spotify.
The pair of albums both heavily draw on Silverman's self-started style of sampling field recordings, which are edited, looped and overlaid with synthesizers.
That’s where tracks like “Moth Laboring” and “Boy in the Grass” shine, both focused on rich audio samples that place the listener, whether it’s on a night hike with crickets chirping or in a park, with children laughing and playing under gently bumping woodblock xylophone sounds.
“Bow Marrow” toys with a cello sample and audio of a zither being tuned, combining them into undulating waves of electronica that slowly consume the track.
Silverman even flirts with melody on “Slots,” where a breathy synth line jitters around for a moment, before he retreats back to ambience with the stark and quiet “Firs,” where water lapping and clacking rocks sound like what one might overhear taking a nap on a dock at Flathead Lake. Silverman holds the urge to break it up with a motorboat roaring by.
Silverman picks up on these sounds constantly, noting the uniqueness of that echo effect or the timbre of the rocks in Flathead Lake.
“Next time you’re there, you should make some noises with the rocks,” he encouraged.
Some sounds achieved through computer programs he doesn’t know how to replicate, a digital analogue for recording real-time audio from daily life.
That experimentation was key for Silverman’s process. His goal was to strike out away from the verse-chorus guitar-based songwriting style, and the further he got from that, the more he felt he succeeded.
"It’s just audio,” he said. “That’s the only rule. There are infinite ways to approach audio going into your ears.”