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Radio Massacre International Explore Space Rock Roots

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Among British musicians who follow the banner of the Berlin School of Electronics, Radio Massacre International (Steve Dinsdale, Duncan Goddard, and Gary Houghton) has maintained a lead position for years, entertaining and dazzling listeners with their guitar-laced, rich electronics and the lush melodies that are produced by their live improvisational style.

With these following CDs, the band apply their creative juices to a pair of dichotomous releases: one delving into slow-burn electronic soundscapes; the other plunging into a frenzy of rock-out sensibilities.

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RADIO MASSACRE INTERNATIONAL: Maelstrom (CD on Northern Echo Recordings)

Although recorded in 1999, this 56 minute CD was not officially released until 2002.

This music approaches like a distant storm: hints are hazily discernible on the far horizon; there are forewarnings of rising tones and subtle beats as the clouds grow closer; the air begins to tingle as definable harmonics wash over the listener. Evasion is inadvisable--in fact, one should sit forward to appreciate the full effect as the music swells with languid force and envelopes you. Placid tonalities become peppered with the tinkling of dangling crystals. An electronic presence is ascending, immersing you with a dramatic anticipation. Gradually, that presence adopts substance, thick and chilling in its liquid demeanor. When the melody emerges from the sonic mist, it is crisp and pleasant, defined by an engaging loop of keys. Following that comes a heavenly humidity that is reminiscent of flutish electronics. A gurgle of synthetic bubbles rises around you, wobbling in the force of the cascading music. The storm is here, and you are in its midst.

This music superbly approximates the advent of a maelstrom, with feverish sequencing and cyclic riffs that capture the windblown frenzy. Space guitar explodes into the compelling melody, each searing note articulating emotional defiance and courage in the face of the tempest. This fiery blaze illuminates the cyclone, revealing a lull lying just ahead, an tranquil eye in the storm that grants you a brief repast from the tension of the sonic simulation.

That breather is short-lived, though, as the harmonics spiral into another ascension. Ethereal winds lift you from the edge of your seat, flinging you to dizzying altitudes. You soar with the music, rising high above the swarming clouds. From this lofty vantage, you are treated to a wondrous view as the music swells afresh. A less frenzied guitar explores bluesy riffs as the electronics coalesce into a sparkling region of eminently eerie atmospherics. Eventually, a twinkling melody appears accompanied by hesitant E-perc that enhances the uncertainty of the moment. Instances of intensity punctuate this passage, heralding a crescendo that will eject you from the maelstrom into a serene coda that returns you to your seat--exhausted but invigorated by the voyage.

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RADIO MASSACRE INTERNATIONAL: Greenhousing (CD on Northern Echo Recordings)

This CD from 2002 offers 66 minutes of delightful space rock.

With this release, RMI explore a more traditional rock template for their sonic stylings, utilizing guitar, bass and drums in conjunction with their Berlin School roots. The result is a strikingly different dose of tuneage that is evocative of classic Ash Ra Tempel while retaining RMI's signature disregard of convention.

Squealing guitar riffs ricochet between the ears, propelled by forceful drumming that is relentless in its energetic dedication to astral rhythms. Slithery basslines ooze in the background, generating a smoldering foundation for a selection of psychedelic music. Electronics are hardly overlooked, but the synthesizers are relegated to an accompanying role instead of being the primary instrumentation. Feedback becomes as viable as a cyclic loop, contributing pinnacles of teeth-crunching urgency.

Some tracks step down the fever for abstract expressions that explore the appeal of cacophony. Tenuous chords are elongated to achieve a simmering effect, as if the melodies are percolating in preparation for the next emphatic outburst. Grinding bass moans while percussion deviates from coherent rhythm. Growling guitar emerges with a whirling attitude that snares everyone's attention amid a rising tide of symphonic electronics. Fingers journey up and down the guitar neck as the chaos devolves into an ominous abyss of deeply resonant reverberations that are rich with anticipatory portends. When the darkness parts, the listener is deposited in a realm of amiable strumming and tongue-rolling keyboard sweeps. This spills into a passage that is sprightly with jubilant percussion, blooping synthesizers, and saw-toothed guitar.

The CD culminates with an 18 minute epic that exemplifies all the above, employing a slow-burn style with rock-out instruments to achieve a dazzling display smoldering sentiments not unlike the awakening of a prehistoric beast from an eons-long slumber.

Quite a departure for RMI, but at the same time wildly rewarding, delivering a sonic excursion of remarkable intensity and satisfying surprises.

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