Radar Bros.

And the Surrounding Mountains

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On the Radar Bros.' third release, And the Surrounding Mountains, the Los Angeles trio -- Jim Putnam (vocals/guitar), Steve Goodfriend (drums), and Senon Gaius Williams (bass) -- retains the guitar-strummed slow dirges that earned the band a slowcore tag. But And the Surrounding Mountains is a stunning collection of songs that build on that slowcore reputation literally. Keyboards, electric guitar, and vocals are layered throughout as each song escalates to a peak and a final denouement. Nowhere is this better realized than on "Rock of the Lake," where a singsong acoustic guitar strum builds into vocal harmonies and spooky synth wind noises until Putnam sings, "Out in the lake of all truth/Rise to the surface you hunter you killer you fool." It doesn't stop there; the song continues to escalate as an electric guitar punctuates the melody and Putnam's normally serene vocals take on a slight urgent tone as he sings, "Just keep moving on/The high water's coming on/In this water they will carry me to you." It's around this point in the record you might realize something horribly, horribly wrong has gone down at the "surrounding mountains" among the family members who are name-checked in song titles: "You and the Father," "Uncles," "Mothers," and the utterly eerie "Sisters." On that track, the piano and percussive rhythm are layered with a guitar, light backing vocals, and trumpet when Putnam informs, "They been missing for a week/From here the weapon looks clean/Too bad the older sisters are taking it home." And appropriately enough, "Still Evil" begins with a backwards synth vocal that sounds otherworldly before Putnam counts off and an acoustic twangy strum leads to piano and an electric guitar before he sings the chorus: "You are still evil/In my sword you'll be caught." Never has anything so lovely been so frightening.

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