|Radere - I'll Make You Quiet|
Future Sequence, 2012
Back at the start of the year, Big Shot put out an article on "75 Dance/Electronic Music Albums to Look For in 2012." One of the releases highlighted on that list that caught my eye was Radere's I'll Make You Quiet. Described as an album constructed out of "found sounds and processed guitar and electronics" that was "captured on single takes, a rarity in this cut-and-paste digital age," I marked the album down as a definite "must-hear." That description called to mind Tim Hecker, whose work I love, and I wondered if I'll Make You Quiet might be this year's Ravedeath, 1972. In many ways, Hecker is not a bad comparison for the music Carl Ritger makes as Radere. The physicality of his music, the weight and presence it seems to have in the room as it plays, certainly calls to mind some of the best attributes of Hecker's work, but the tension between silence and noise, the co-mingling of beauty and violence within both of those dynamics, also calls to mind the work of Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk or Bark Psychosis c.Hex. Another recent touchstone might the Sight Below, whose It All Falls Apart used a similar tonal palette, though to more melodic (and ultimately more rewarding) ends.
While Radere calls to mind all of these artists, I'll Make You Quiet is not quite at their level. Most of the tracks here work not in terms of linear development or narrative, but through stasis and repetition. This can be quite an effective technique, but I'll Make You Quiet often suffers from a fatiguing insistence on its static qualities. Given the power and force of his sounds--even at its sunniest and lightest, nothing here could be called gossamer or be said to shimmer; this is solid music throughout--Ritger is often able to construct his tracks in a topographic fashion, using layers of sounds to construct worlds with a great deal of variance from top to bottom. The cover image, which is absolutely gorgeous and probably my front-runner for album cover of the year right now, describes the movement of sound on the album well: while there are often peaks and valleys, huge banks of cloud (in the form of drone, hiss, or hum) shift throughout, now obscuring those peaks and valleys, now revealing them. When this approach clicks, as it does on the album-opening title track--whose structure of a slow build to a monstrous wash of noise (aided by the grainy, lo-fi texture of the recording) that gives way to a brighter, almost angelic bit of melody reminds me a great deal of "Hex"--and the closer, "Stay Away," which uses dynamic shifts, feedback squall, and the arrhythmic propulsion provided by what sounds alternately like keys jangling or bits of broken metal and glass being dragged across a floor to great effect, Radere's music achieves a beauty and power that can breathtaking.
Those two tracks, at twenty two minutes combined, make up just under half the album's forty six minute running time. Unfortunately, the other twenty four minutes are not similarly thrilling. "Sometimes, I Can't Make Full Sentences" is the best of the rest, calling to mind the more interstitial moments of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (I half-expected a female voice to tell me about Arco AM/PM Mini-Markets), but there is a frustrating lack of development. An entire world is being constructed, one that sounds like what Arthur C. Clarke imagines might be beneath Jupiter's clouds in 2010: Odyssey Two, but nothing happens beyond that construction. That Ritger is able to create such vivid and detailed tracks in one take is impressive, but I can't help feeling that multiple takes might allow him to do more in the way of development. The remaining two tracks, ". . . So I Left" and "Good Evening, Ghosts (Version),"* suffer from the same fate. While ". . . So I Left" introduces a new colour to the album with its mock-organ guitar and chattering denouement (the most alien sounding moment on the album), "Good Evening, Ghosts" is nine minutes of static repetition, a swooning, swooping loop (a very pretty loop, to be fair) repeated while being swathed in noise and sonic debris. The materials are there, but Ritger seems content to put them together without asking them to do anything.
I'll Make You Quiet, then, is ultimately a missed opportunity. Its opening and closing tracks show just how strong and interesting Radere can be, but the middle of the album suffers from being neither ambient enough to serve as aural wallpaper (music this weighty and physical commands attention) nor active enough to repay close listening. At its best, the album suggests that Ritger has a voice distinctive enough to contribute to the kind of power ambient music that Tim Hecker has been the master of for the past ten years, which is high praise. That the longest tracks on I'll Make You Quiet are the strongest bodes well for Ritger's ability to make this kind of music appealing on a large scale, but for now, too much stasis and repetition and not enough development compromise his vision over the album as a whole.
*You have no idea how much I wanted to like a track called "Good Evening, Ghosts."