Radio Massacre International

Emissaries

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Pure, unabashed electronic music was first developed by the likes of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze in the 1970s. The long, meandering compositions, mesmerizing drones, spacy sci-fi effects, and obsessive sequencer reps were occasionally appropriated in some of the more psychedelic strains of prog rock (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, etc.), and electronic music also evolved into ambient/new age when synthesizer musicians began emphasizing melodic content and abandoned the relentless rhythms and dark minor keys. Many elements of traditional electronic music can also be found in contemporary club techno. But classic electronic music is head music -- strictly instrumental, usually minor keyed, melodically minimalist, and not for dancing. Although obscured by other, newer forms, the genre has maintained a core audience, addressing as it does an almost hardwired human need for connection with the cosmos, and it can take a firm hold on anyone who is looking for a psychic journey or vigorous mind massage. Radio Massacre International, a British trio using many of the old analog instruments from electronic music's first generation (e.g., Mellotrons, Moogs, and Korg vocorders), have a dedicated following in the U.K. and on the Continent. Since 1994, they have released at least 14 CDs and CD-Rs on their own Northern Echo label. The band has assiduously guarded its musical independence, wanting to avoid the compromises required by large mainstream entertainment conglomerates that measure success in units sold, so it's a bit of a coup for the U.S. Cuneiform label to be able to present RMI's unadulterated sounds on this double-CD release, generated from a 2004 studio recording and a live radio broadcast during an earlier 2004 visit to WXPM in Philadelphia after a concert performance. The music, as evidenced on this release, is almost deliberately anachronistic: no fat MIDI sound, no faux orchestral presets, no digital gloss or advanced sampling technology. But the three musicians bring an improviser's sensibility to the music, which aligns them somewhat with jazz -- and perhaps with contemporary laptop computer musicians as well. First-generation electronic musicians were working primarily with musical concepts and a bag of recognized cosmic textures and timbres. They seldom exhibited virtuoso technique, partly due to the intractability of their experimental electronic instruments. But RMI's Steve Dinsdale, Duncan Goddard, and Gary Houghton know how to coax all sorts of nuances from their machines, and they function as a live, interactive trio, with each member responding to the others' riffs and musical motifs. It doesn't hurt any, either, that Houghton has very impressive guitar chops, so when he eases into the mix with some blistering Stratocaster bursts, he rather convincingly updates (and improves upon) Edgar Froese's generic and rather predictable guitar flights on the seminal Tangerine Dream recordings. In a word, Radio Massacre International nail the vintage electronic music sound, but the band is simply more "nimble" than the first generation models, which greatly enhances the listening pleasure of the suitably attuned listener. Even if you're a sophisticated music consumer who considers the electronic music genre to be a thing of the past, you owe it to yourself to check out this CD. And if you're a musical novice unacquainted with RMI's sources, this music will serve as a stellar introduction to the form.

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