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Radian - Rec.Extern

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Artist: Radian

Album: Rec.Extern

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Sep. 12, 2002

Approximately 57°17'44.6

So much ink is spilled these days debating, contemplating, and philosophizing over technological advancements of the past twenty years or so, and its effects on modern society. But few discuss culture and passion, or rather the near depletion of such things in the minds of young people.

We as a society are so used to immediate satisfaction, pleasure, comfort, etc. that our desires to hunt and discover new things (namely artistic forms of expression) are all but existent. It’s a wonderful time to be a fan of music, but are enough people taking advantage of it? To be able to go backwards – to walk into a room and be able to pick up so many facets of music history – an Art Ensemble of Chicago record, or Squirrel Bait, Big Star, or even a Charley Patton boxset (!); and at the same time, be able to grab something that is stylistically unlike anything else – say, a Pole 12”, or Lightning Bolt, or Shellac – that exudes that passion, that impenetrable fire that reminds you of why you got into this whole mess of loving music.

It’s ironic that at the time we live in, when we have access to so much, that most of us (and I’m talking as a culture – not you and your five buddies who just discovered Popol Vuh or some shit) don’t want to take the time to discover something. Most of us want it downloaded (“only a couple of the good songs, cuz why spend $15 on an album with only two or three good songs?” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that futile argument, I’d be able to buy that Patton box), sent to our Palm Pilots so we can listen to it while we’re waiting in line for our next latte. For others, we know what we like: it’s already pre-packaged and in it’s own section – EMO, IDM, 2-Step Garage, Garage Rock, Psych, what have you – and we’ll be damned if we step out of that section, because said section results in said scene, and if we stick out, or act different from the rest of the gang, then we’ll be ostracized for eternity.

Then there are the true-school lions, and I’m assuming that readers of this webzine are from that breed. Those who just don’t care – those that have the passion and the fire, to hunt down, search under every rock for something (be it old or new) that excites them. Those that know the wheat from the chaff, and can look beyond such petty things as genre, and style. Vienna artists Radian know that fire, and they’re ready to re-kindle yours.

For their first album on Chicago’s Thrill Jockey, Radian have stepped up their signature style of noise and rhythm to create an album that is from beginning to end a relentless assault on senses and emotions. The combination of bass, drums, synths, extra atmospheric toys such as vibraphones, radio frequencies, and laptop sound-fuckery is something dynamic and inspiring. To hear it in a large room, really loud is necessary – the first time I heard it was in a cold office, and I felt blindfolded. I didn’t want to ask what it was because I didn’t want to be seen as a stooge who didn’t know anything.

But the sound...

This dramatic interplay between what sounded like a hint of Mouse On Mars and (aesthetically) the instrumental work of, say, This Heat or Gastr Del Sol, reminded me of what I love about music. Getting knocked on the head with something that you’ve never heard before, and just smiling – because when you think you’ve heard it all, and you hear something totally original, well…then that’s just the extra gravy that comes with the turkey meat, isn’t it?

It doesn’t matter that John McEntire produced it –he did a fantastic job with the record, and probably played some sort of role in helping the group groove a little more – nor does it matter that it’s on a really “hip & cool Chicago indie-label.” What matters here is that these are men creating music with passion, versatility, and conviction – essentially epitomizing why we should never think we’ve heard it all before.

By Stephen Sowley

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