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splendid > reviews > 9/30/2004
Radian
Radian
Juxtaposition
Thrill Jockey


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Helix"

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With the majority of their countrymen busy raiding mom's makeup case to strike the proper black metal spooky face or cranking out turgid house beats on cheesy synths, Austrian trio Radian became their native land's most interesting musical export virtually by default. That's not to suggest that they're merely the strongest of a weak crop; even in more competitive environs, Radian's intriguing electronic post-rock would stick out on the horizon like a Peacekeeper missile battery on the High Plains.

There's soul in them thar scratchy rhythms and electro bleeps, and judging from Juxtaposition, a fair degree of humanity and cinematic ambition, too. Distinguished by trace elements of Krautrock and Tortoise as well as soundtrack titan Bernard Herrmann and avant-garde electronica, Radian boasts a sound far deeper and richer than most of their push-button contemporaries. Their music lives in a dark, alien place where even robots fear to tread, a metallic otherworld cloaked in feedback and electromagnetic radiation.

From the off, rubbery basslines thump and electronic doohickies squawk like the Taxi Driver theme set to brisk, clipped beats. The opening "Shift" begins with some benign machine-made clicks and bloops and a hi-hat drum pattern ripped out of the intro to "Theme from Shaft" (clever, eh?), eventually giving way to a wall of piercing, high-pitched synth stabs and thuggish drumming. "Tiefenschärfe" is aural creepiness in a haunted house inhabited by the ghosts of abandoned Macintosh IIs and Yamaha DX7s, ushering in Juxtaposition's eight-minutes-plus synthesizer and vibraphone epic, the moody and atmospheric "Nord". "Helix", meanwhile, comes on like a dockyard showdown scene in some robot film noir, all stirring bass rumbles and stretched-out keyboard dramatics.

Devising scores for non-existent sci-fi flicks appears to be Radian's strong suit -- "Tester" works Geiger counter crackles and slashes of noise around a throbbing metronomic pulse that would sound perfect against the terse drama of a climactic "must deprogram the evil alien supercomputer or we all die" scene, and the drones and metallic clanks, creaks and hisses of "Vertigo" ape the undersea menace of an unmanned nuclear submarine that someone forgot to deactivate after the Cold War ended. There are no human voices anywhere on Juxtaposition, which makes the silent-running nature of this unsettling sonic juggernaut all the more ominous: these are the sounds that pollute a million power-save mode nightmares. More human than human, indeed.



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