d_rradio: Leaves
Symbolic Interaction

d_rradio—which is pronounced D. R. Radio, stands for Death Row Radio, and is a trio composed of Michael Todd, Chris Tate, and Paul Patterson—has been issuing recordings since 2003. The group has released material on Awkward Silence (a track on a split seven-inch with The Marcia Blaine School For Girls) and Static Caravan (a series of seven-inch releases and the debut album U_nderscore), done remixes for the likes of Depth Affect, port-royal, Vic Mars, and Televise, and recently appeared on Symbolic Interaction's The Silence Was Warm Vol.2 compilation.

d_rradio's Leaves must, however, represent some kind of career zenith. It's a double-disc collection whose ten settings might be characterized as “Gas (or Marsen Jules) minus beats”—think crackly orchestral samples assembled into infinitely looping constructions (the discs total more than 140 minutes, with six shorter pieces accompanied by four epics, one sixteen minutes long, another twenty, and two over thirty). Whether short or long, each setting feels like a transcendent evocation—less music of the earth than of the heavens (intimated by the very title of “Up To Forever”). Like Wolfgang Voigt's Gas tracks, d_rradio's material is timeless and graceful, and the lighter-than-air material is capable of inducing a prolonged state of mesmerized calm in the receptive listener. Throughout the release, piano, organ, synth, and string elements swirl and swim in limitless expanses of hiss and static. Sans the vaporous textural drapery, the lulling electronic streams in “By The Way” and “Throw The Line Away” would be even more Eno-like in character. The tracks aren't in every case static. The twenty-two-minute “Sound As Ever” undergoes a metamorphosis halfway through when it exchanges its ceaselessly surging string patchworks for muffled piano streams and lulling rhythms, and a celestial organ drone gradually challenges soft synth murmurs for dominance in “Streaming.”

In truth, does the humongous “Always Late,” whose string and organ themes rock like an immense ocean vessel, or hypnotically pulsating “Up To Forever” need to be thirty minutes long? In each case, length is somewhat arbitrary since, for all it matters, the track could just as easily be ten or eighty—material so loop-based could theoretically play forever. In this regard, Leaves is a bit like Bryars' Jesus Blood Hasn't Failed Me Yet given the composer's acknowledgement that the original recorded version was twenty minutes long because that was what the vinyl format could accommodate; to some degree, Bryars' later re-visitation (the one featuring Tom Waits) was three times as long because the CD format enabled the composer to stretch it out. Likewise, any one of Leaves' tracks conceivably could be presented as a five-minute or half-hour version.

July 2009