Album of the Day: Radian, “On Dark Silent Off”

Calling a record “heavy-handed” is an easy shot to fire at a time when internet-based knowledge runs neck-and-neck with collective cynicism. Point too clearly in your art’s intended message or direction, and you risk getting your arm chopped off.

Good thing Radian aims to destroy all the signposts to their fifth album; Ad Reinhardt, the symbolism-detesting expressionist who inspired the album’s title, would have likely approved. Throughout On Dark Silent Off, the Vienna trio replaces obvious cultural references with abstraction, interweaving Chicago-style post-rock’s deliberation with electro-acoustic improvisation and found sound. 

On “Blue Noise, Black Lake,” the click and thud of percussion on saxophone pads mixes with turgid bass, submerging guitarist Martin Siewart’s slow-motion wailing. The title track blurs boundaries between structure and improv further; dub-influenced melodic passages hang by single strings before the group pushes them off into wild, whirling ambience. “Pickup Pickout” pulls at its drones like taffy, situating them as call and response, rather than background noise. Not a pop, hiss, sudden pivot, or clanking crescendo during On Dark Silent Off is arbitrary; the album surgically deploys every element to subvert structural motifs rather than uphold them. Radian clearly know the difference between subtle narrative and strong-armed prophecy, and in purposefully sidestepping the most obvious choices, they tap into a particularly powerful creative vein—one that doesn’t need obvious signifiers to get its message across.

—Nnamdi Bawsism

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