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This Is Radio Silence - This Is Radio Silence

This Is Radio Silence - This Is Radio Silence coverThis Is Radio Silence have as one of their song titles implies been operating somewhere under the radar for quite some time. This eponymous compilation gathers together EP's and singles released since 2019 with outtakes and live session tracks offering a one-stop shop of where the group, active since 2006 are now. The compilation covers a lot of material and genres but the This Is Radio Silence sound is largely based around Ben McLees' melodic vocal with post-punk and transcendent guitars, strident bass over a bed of synths which fits comfortably in the lineage of The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and The Twilight Sad. They are big name comparisons, of course, but there's a quality to the songwriting here with high production values. That shouldn't be too surprising as the nucleus here involves Ben McLees, formerly of Earth Loop Recall and SonVer and a current member of the angular post-punk/dark folk outfit Naevus, and Hunter Barr, who also records as Oblivion Guest and as part of Black Light Ascension and operates the Retina II studio. Now back with Austin Davey they inject that core sound with nuanced textures and industrial ambience to create thrilling and brooding electronic rock, a term I'm using loosely and reluctantly.

The Fallen Men EP, the only release from This Is Radio Silence we've previously covered, figures heavily at the start of the album. Ben McLees' emotive voice basks in wavering electronics and forlorn synths of that EP's title track. Quietly powerful, he sings of "citizens of nowhere" in a heartfelt dismissal of political climes - "The direction we're forced to take isn't one we'd chosen" - as it surges in passages embellished with synths and lush guitar ripples. 'Empty Mirrors' shudders to dark electro sequences, its breathless and treated tones reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails and that's before it moves up a level in sustained guitar drone swamped in industrial atmospherics. "We know it's over, there are no stars in the sky tonight," McLees' sings breathlessly on 'We Know It's Over' capturing a poignancy found within the sombre synths, as it slowly unfurls and falls into ambience returning weaving intricate acoustic guitar patterns amidst the mellow synths and downbeat electronics. This is still my favourite track from the group, amply illustrating their versatility and just some of the other sounds that seep into their music.

Laced with LSD samples and backward treatments 'The Yellow House' journeys through bass lead electronics, as McLees sings of life's struggles, "take the rough with the shit medicate my way through it". As it locks into squalling guitars and crashing drums McLees howls "tomorrow fades away" sounding reawakened, impassioned and hopeful. McLees' vocals are more stoic on 'Frozen Frames' hovering over chiming Krautrock sequences shadowed by dark buzzing atmospherics which slip out in an end section of drum infused noise shimmer. 'Impermanence' is a piece of radiant electro pop, exploding with passages of expansive guitar glide, bookended and underpinned by chilling cinematic sequences. A starker, darker more electro version of this with an atmospheric vocal refrain features on 'Impermanence (version)'.

Not everything is so complex and nuanced, 'Disappointed' is carried on a wave of thrashing industrial guitar and powerhouse drumming. 'Unsound' bounds along to choppy, post-punk scrapings and clipped rhythms spouting lines about self-loathing and hate. 'The Voice Inside My Head Remains' could easily just have been as direct. This Is Radio Silence, however, are clever enough to filter it through atmospherics and somehow through tumbling harmonic guitar notes they steer it into a widescreen shoegazing experience.

"There's something growing within my house" utters McLees on 'One For Sorrow' and 'Two For Joy (2020 RDX)'. Both are two sides of the same coin swollen with synths and McLees hushed words. The former filled with distortion riddled bubbling electronics, the latter featuring dubbed up rhythms cast against heaving electro shudders, lighter synths and glimmering guitar tones giving it a poppier edge.

If that synth oriented sound hints towards something redolent of The Cure sound then perhaps it all comes to fruition on 'There Is No Time' as morose melodic tones ring over throbbing bass woven with guitar chime drenched, at points, in an undercurrent of industrial ambience and stretched out in a crescendo of gliding guitar corrosion. It's another great track.

By now you get the point that This Is Radio Silence who've been active since 2006 and gone through various iterations are fully formed with a back catalogue worth hearing, and that's without mentioning some of the other tracks and live versions included here. This review is peppered with references to other groups only to illustrate their breadth of sound which has been circulating under the radar for far too long. This Is Radio Silence is perhaps their definitive statement and if not it's certainly a calling card to attract a wider audience of which they surely deserve. This Is Radio Silence is released as a 2CD in limited numbers and digitally from Disconnected Music bandcamp