Friday, August 15, 2008

Real Space Noise - 'Radio Method'

Consisting of studio vet Chan Blinman and his buddy Steve Ashburn, Real Space Noise lives up to its name - They make really spacey noise. Electronic and pretty, their full-length Radio Method combines rock and electronic flourishes. But what kills the album off is the duo’s reliance on Blinman’s old recording buddies from Face to Face/Viva Death, Trevor Keith and Scott Shiflett, for vocals on almost half of the album. That’s not to say that they do a bad job; on the contrary, Keith and Shiflett do a better job fronting their respective RSN tracks than Blinman himself. In doing so, Keith and Shiflett upstage the main band.

The album has four lead singers divided among 12 tracks. Blinman helms six, Keith three, Shiflett two, and alt-indie singer Monica Richards closes out the album on the final track, “Quietus.” Blinman himself does a decent job, although his faux-British singing grows old halfway through tracks like “The New Machine Age” or “Sky Collector.” The music, at least, is still solid.

Electro beats and new wave ambiance are the hallmark of Radio Method. Described by the band’s website as having “themes of man’s relationship with technology, reason and faith, and the broken promise of the future,” Radio Method adds on cold computer programmed instrumentals accordingly. It’s at least as decent as Orgy’s techno-paranoid piece Vapor Transmission but when compared to the king of industrial terror, Trent Reznor, Blinman’s beats and obsessions don’t compare. The music lacks anger. Pretty Hate Machine without the “hate” just isn’t all that compelling.

There is some hope offered in the form of Trevor Keith, though. Not hope in the lyrical sense, because Keith’s contributions are just as chock full o’ loathing and nihilism as Blinman’s stuff. Keith has got years of experience belting out hits, though; his work with Face to Face yielded such seminal punk albums as Big Choice and Face to Face. His experimental (for a punk band) FtF album, Ignorance is Bliss, revealed that Keith could do more than just play three chords in a circle over and over. The same can be said for his new band, Viva Death, of which Blinman is also a member. Viva Death could also be described as rock/electronic, so Keith and Blinman’s work here doesn’t stray too far from that so much as check out the flip side. Viva Death rocks; Real Space Noise tries to groove.

Keith only sings on three tracks (”A Pleasant Confinement,” “Are You Uncomfortable?” and “The Quickening”), but they’re all classy cuts that are good enough to raise this album’s score a whole notch. “A Pleasant Confinement” starts off with the best audio sample of the whole album (”So maybe the moon is made of green cheese”) and quickly establishes itself as the best song on the album with its punchy drumming and sharp pace.

Radio Method is a decent experimental music release from Blinman and Ashburn. But at times, it feels more like just an experiment, and not enough like fully developed music. Blinman’s got a ton of punk credentials from recording Face to Face, The Get Up Kids, and Senses Fail, plus from his work with Viva Death. Real Space Noise feels like an attempt to break out of that mold, and while his efforts are amicable, they are far from “great.”

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