Canadian art has always been inextricably linked to place. From Group of Seven’s landscapes to Jack Hodgin’s Spit Delaney’s Island, our cultural output has been centered on cragged coastlines and maple -traced riverbeds. With folk music the impact is obvious—listen to the Band’s Whispering Pines, or Neil Young’s Helpless, and tell me otherwise. But what about the more contemporary stuff? How does something so synthetic—music built on electronic blips, computer-calculated minimalism—communicate our geographic identity?
The key is to remember that man exists beyond vast open spaces. And despite Radioseven’s shot at artistic anonymity, on the self-titled LP, the artist’s Vancouver routes show. Maybe it’s the abundance of similarly soundtracked time-lapse videos that have capitalized on the city’s beauty (and trust me, anyone here during last year’s 2010 Olympics have seen their share)—but every twinkling synth on Radioseven is reminiscent of city lights reflecting off of English Bay. Those static crescendos draw sketches of the North Shore Mountains at sunrise. Watch the Explorers video or listen to the Stellar Cartographer 7” and you can see that Radioseven has an affliction toward space. But on this LP, my guess is that the inspiration is something closer to home.
Radioseven is a busy album. Like a multi-cultural community of 600,000, it swells and sprawls. In just under 4 minutes, Inside transitions from the gloom of industrial wastelands to the roaring city center. The Eno and Byrne sampling Space brings back memories of late night bike rides along the water front, taillights bouncing off dewy streets, and the cyclic pulse spokes echoed in the ocean swell.
While Radioseven certainly exhibits dexterity, there are times when the album seems too eager to flex its muscle. Of the five transition points on the LP, not one feels entirely natural. Segues are crucial in ambient music—the ‘album experience’ is almost always more important then it’s components alone. There are times when Radioseven feels like a mixtape of semi-cohesive tracks. There’s some wonderful restraint within the tracks themselves—particularly on the aforementioned Inside. It’s too bad that the composer hasn’t applied this subtlety to the album as a whole.
Top Tracks: “Space”; “Explorers”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)