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Radian: "Chimeric"

img  Tobias

Despite the hypnotic coherency of their sound, there has always been something of a paradox at the heart of Radian. Live, the group would turn into an extension of their machines, a clockwork of precision and predetermination, of concepts, concentration and consistency. Just like Industrial Metal formation Fear Factory required members to play their instruments with inhuman perfection, the Austrian trio willingly submitted themselves to the metronomic pulse of a clicktrack, turning into an organic system on stage. In the studio, meanwhile, they operated as a democratic collective, keeping all options open and considering freedom of ideas and the desire to never repeat themselves their greatest assets. Perhaps as a result, few bands have mastered the dialectics between Rock and Electronica more convincingly than Radian: On albums like „Rec.Extern“ and „Juxtaposition“, the two sides of the coin blended into a single suspenseful sheet of sound, in which they could no longer be separated.

On „Chimeric“, the gap between man and machine is arguably being closed more tightly than ever before. Driven by the decision to fill new content into existing band structures, Radian have completely rethought their compositional approach, arriving at a hypnotic hybrid between sensual synthetic tissues and the primal roar of Guitars, Bass and Drums. Even though the album essentially fell into place in the editing stages, the immediate interaction between three instrumentalists locked up in a rehearsal space can clearly be discerned as the core of the music. You can sense the spontaneity in their exchanges, physically feel the tension of going to extremes in their performances and hear the creative collisions between their individual contributions. If you forget about the robotic distortion on some of the Percussion parts, leave out the almost inaudible digital cuts in the arrangements, ignore the alluring neon-glow of a plethora of processed timbres and skip the sirenic stuttering of an electronic miniature like „Git Cut Derivat“, then these are essentially epic and bleeding Rock-songs, winding their way through a constantly changing chain of surreal scenes.

As much as this impression forces itself upon the listener on a first listen, it is gradually offset by the way this music wilfully eschews traditional forms. Even though the more upfront elements of each track are never once lost throughout their duration (with the exception, perhaps, of collage-like quasi-title-track „Chimera“), they seem like atoms caught in a quantum-dance, jumping from one temporary state to the next. One moment, John Norman's Bass will be burried underneath a pile of feedback, filth and noise, another it will act as the guiding light of an icebreaker navigating through a spartanic sea of Dub and Drums. Similarly, Stefan Németh's laptops will drench the action in an estranging synthetic light at one point, only to give way to naked rawness the next. Martin Brandlmayr can meanwhile take on both the appearance of a sexy Funk-musician and an angry robot.

The band says it best when claiming that „some of the longer pieces are composed of very different parts and different colours along a continuous timeline“.:The idea of sound, rather than conventional compositional logic driving these pieces is most prominent in the select instances where Radian gradually verge towards emotional climaxes. Instead of making use of trivial dynamics, these acmes are instead determined by a continual concentration of musical elements, which suddenly take on relationships, building unsuspected connections in a wildly proliferating network of acoustic synapses.

Dedicated fans may ask whether any of this truly differs from their previous efforts and whether the unpolished sound is not merely a subtle cover-up to  conceal that, underneath all the visionary aggression, „Chimeric“ is very much what you'd expect from them. In their typically sober fashion, the band have been the first to acknowledge this, considering „turned-up amps“ the sole selling point of their fourth full-length and citing the desire to avoid ornamentation and „the construction of sounds and their relationship among each other“ as constants in their oeuvre.

One may beg to differ. If their back catalogue mainly fed from the alluringly scented gastric acids coughed up by their musical body as a consequence of a seemingly insoluble inner tension, their new work successfully breaks through these conflicts with passionate determination. Underneath the cliches of Rock and without surrendering to their past, Radian have found a wormhole to the next level. It will thankfully not bring the developmental process at the heart of their art to a halt – but it does seem to have reconciled the contradictions which fueled some of their earliest material for the moment.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Radian
Homepage: Thrill Jockey Records

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