Opener "Soul Débris" soars gracefully across its eight long minutes, with a glowing spoken-word sample that creates an unusually sunny mood. Along with "Junior High" and "This American Life," it's the duo's most straightforward work in a long time, more influenced by the drift of dub techno than the UK and IDM that lorded over their earlier material. Menace lurks, but it keeps to the background. Static eats away at the edges of "Soul Débris," and quick, startling sounds burst and die out in a mere moment. Relegating these devices to the peripheries makes for a smoother whole, but it's easy to miss the unpredictability of older tracks like "Hockey Nights In Canada."
"Balt Shakt," a two-part single that preceded Silent Ascent last year, forms a bridge between the group's then and now. These two are pockmarked by blinding chords and packed with murmuring vocal samples, sometimes pleasant and sometimes sinister. The title track, meanwhile, hearkens back to their old sound with a windswept garage beat, sweeping chords and a buzzing climax that'd make Explosions In The Sky turn their heads.
There's a moment late into the album when the quiet hiss of "Etern" erupts into a twisted trance reverie, overdriven and decaying as if the duo had picked up a dying signal in their studio. That transient piece of melody seems almost impossible in the context of Silent Ascent, which funnels the dark energies of the duo's old work into something more seamless. Like some of 2014's other great techno albums—Francis Harris' Minutes Of Sleep or Efdemin's Decay—Silent Ascent finds tension in confident, mature composition.