Almost-forgotten 90’s R&B B-sides, dusty ’45s, hazy summer afternoons, a blissful midday nap and the sting of not-quite realized romance are just some of the rich textures and colours that Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist Silentjay captures with his unique production, soulfully understated voice and phone book of friends and collaborators that he creates the perfect foil for.
Silentjay – the project of Alejandro Jay Abapo – won over a steadfast fan base in the ever-evolving community of underground dance music in his hometown of Melbourne with his early Soundcloud singles, his distinctive collection of independently released EPs, infusing heartfelt soul and authentic instrumentation into a sample-dominated scene. Drawing on inspirations as diverse as N.E.R.D, Disney films and adventures in the Australian desert with just an SP-404 and a Walkman, his tracks and DJ sets turned heads across the city. He soon found himself a reuniting with some jazz school friends, part of an up-and-coming group, as the backing vocalist for Hiatus Kayiote, a perfect collaborator for the fiercely original and now globally successful group, which has seen Jay tour through UK, Europe and Japan as well as iconic venues around the world including Sydney Opera House and London’s O2.
Having studied jazz improvisation at the Victorian College of Arts, playing no less than the saxophone, piano and keyboard, drums and flute Silentjay turned his ear for music to production after his uncle, a DJ, gave him his record collection. He brought his own sampler and combined his talents as a multi-instrumentalist and trained musician and a life-time sized collection of hip-hop, soul, funk and footwork — now finding his signature sound in instrumental beats and reimagined house, flirting with dub and frequently led by his searching, jazz background.
It’s little wonder given his unique musical-leanings that Silentjay’s music soon pricked the ears around the world – first with encouragement from Los Angeles’ Brainfeeder label-head Flying Lotus, who Jay has supported twice on national tours of Australia, to London based Boiler Room co-founder and Rhythm Section director Bradley Zero, who invited the up-and-coming producer and his frequent collaborator Jace XL to release their debut EP ‘Sacrifice’ through his label.
‘Sacrifice’, Silentjay’s first label release earlier this year, was entirely co-written with Jace XL and quickly gained a cult-following after it’s pre-release of tapes sold out from Bandcamp in under a week – a feat almost unheard of without a publicity force behind it. The just-30-minute record went on to sell out a further run of vinyl, a London show, added to national station Double j’s playlist, spins on community radio around the country, and it’s video for lead single ‘Rockabye’ repeated for weeks on Australia’s longest running music television show RAGE.
Silentjay can also lay claim to a host of high profile performances including the support for Thundercat earlier this year, where he debuted his live band, and sets for Jonwayne, Mark Pritchard, Remi, Teebs, Flying Lotus, as previously mentioned saw him play Tasmania’s infamous MONA, Melbourne’s The Forum, and Sydney Opera House. Jay has also been billed on festival line-ups around the country including Splendour in the Grass, Let Them Eat Cake and Volumes Festival.
It’s seems impossible that Silentjay, amidst touring, recording, remixing and featuring with numerous other projects, would have time to craft as much music as he once did with his highly anticipated, and randomly released Soundcloud singles – but the prolific producer is now set to release ‘Come Fly With Me’ – a collection of 27 instrumental tracks in September. Whilst Michael Jordan’s 1989 documentary of the same name includes rare footage of the basketball legend, Jay’s beat tape includes just as many slam dunks, gravity defying moves and likewise is set to showcase a young artist just about to burst into the next stage of his career.