Friday, February 5, 2010

Chimeric - Radian (No Ripcord Review)


Thrill Jockey Records.

No Ripcord Review: 4
SCQ Rating: 45%

There aren’t a ton of incentives when approaching records like Chimeric. Firstly, post-rock’s chameleon-like ability to channel every influence in the world from jazz to electronica to ambient doesn’t justify omitting its best feature: those pummeling moments of catharsis that Mogwai built-up and Godspeed! You Black Emperor stretched out. Still, despite the genre’s stagnancy in recent years, there remains much room to grow outward and Radian (Stefan Nemeth, Martin Brandlmayr and John Norman) sound intent on wandering post-rock’s darker, untraveled boundaries. I appreciate the ambition but, secondly, there’s ‘Git Cut Noise’, an opener that hints upon its nonsensical clatter in the title alone. There’s a vaguely metal riff running beneath its initial clanging that eventually comes out swinging… and maybe that’s Radian’s idea of catharsis; simple chord progressions layered with noise to the point where every hiccup of indifference becomes somehow, by-default, valid.

It isn’t such an accusation, really. Thrill Jockey have all but made it their mandate: putting a cerebral spin on post-rock records will not only attract adventurous listeners with unique tastes, but also a cross-section of fans who will self-congratulate themselves for digging it. That latter group, among them the same fans who criticized Tortoise for sounding plain on It’s All Around You yet adored the hopelessly plain Mountains LP Choral, will no doubt wear Chimeric as a new badge, dissecting these six songs as if they’re subliminal messages while the former group politely declines.

Such nerdy enthusiasm is requisite for ‘Feedbackmikro / City Lights’, a ten-minute opus of progressions that move from tense deliberation to a bracing ascension of warm guitar tones reminiscent of early Fridge. Oh, right, and a few interrupting minutes of disconnected noise that bids to turn a decent composition into more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t sell, though, likely because Chimeric was actually recorded and assembled from spare parts, taking varied sonic ideas and stitching them onto anchored, post-rock brooding. While abusing dissonance fails to take these songs anywhere new, Radian do succeed in laying down some great song-ideas with thunderous mood-pieces (the title track) and electronic tinkering (‘Git Cut Derivant’). Yet compiled and stacked as they are, most tracks feel weighed-down and overlong, distracting their melodious moments with a few ugly hurdles to clear.

Left-field, noisy records are not the problem; it’s that in Chimeric’s case, there’s no contrast. A record of anxious, cacophonous foreboding has to be met with small comforts, some tenderness, in order to keep listeners interested in the emotional ride. Although these compositions show a ton of variety, Radian pigeonhole themselves to a one-note range that imprisons Chimeric with a threatening, claustrophobic mood. While this trio has the talents of an anxiety-driven (albeit instrumental) Talk Talk, this long-awaited return offers few listener payoffs.

(This review was originally published on No Ripcord... )

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