Radiation City is all about dynamics. The Hands That Take You
has a lot to do with space; the distance between chordal explosions and quiet passages, the former distance between the original duo Lizzie Ellison and Cameron Spies, and the distance between a series of tight hits and crescendos. The album is meticulously sewn together with a warm, aged aesthetic, and retrofitted with contemporary progressions and harmonies. It's the kind of quiet record you crank up to 11, to fully appreciate even the most subtle of sonic nuances, the tight riffs and impeccable precision mixed with fuzzy vocals, a time capsule of ennui with an unclear origin.
A few moments of clarity are telling of the band's prowess and preoccupations. "The Things You Tell Us" flirts with Lizzie's best Fiona Apple, "The Color Of Industry" plays up the vocal effects as an essential part of the recording's charm (a washed-out vocal mix that Cults made vogue on "Abducted," but Radiation City makes better sonic use of throughout). "Phantom Lady" goes from casual to face-melt and back again so smoothly, you barely even notice your heart rate fluctuating. The band transitions better than most professional writers.
Radiation City knows how to get your blood pumping with these tracks, especially with the by-and-large standout song, "Park." The song follows Cameron's feelings at being separated from Lizzie during the beginning of their relationship, and it radiates almost everything that makes Radiation City a great band (in just four minutes!). You could write a mini-musical thesis on the dynamics. The sparse scratchy combination of Cameron's tripled voice and naked guitar give way to an explosion of emotive chants and a driving riff is like the record's plot-twist moment (without even needing a plot). When the band builds up to that second verse at the 1:33 mark, it's like fireworks in a tin box.
The band excels at things most other less-practiced band's actively avoid; namely, synchronized downbeat riffs that change without warning, explosions of sound followed by immediate drops, and celebrations of the beautiful space in between the noise. Loud and fast is easy for the undisciplined to play and play well, but that gets pretty one-note. On the flip side, Radiation City could probably play one note for an hour and make it interesting. It's clear they spend more time honing their songs to almost ninja-like precision than actually playing them for people. The dedication adds a phantom level of energy to even their quietest moments. The recordings on The Hands That Take You
are an audiophile's dream; full of little nuances to mine and reward the active ear, a plethora of details to discover upon each listen, and a half-life that extends as far as the eye can see.
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