Artist: Radio For The Daydreamers
Title: Praying For The Be(a)st
Catnmbr: BS062 (maybe I am not the only person who read that as “bull shit zero six two”, but it is a good thing this album is not bullshit!)
Label: Black Square
Keywords: Experimental, Ambient, Avant-Garde, Dark Ambient, Dark Electronic, Dark Jazz, Electronic, Experimental Jazz, Pittsburgh, Creative Commons, Black Square
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Wow. That was my reaction about 1/4th of the way through the first track. Then again about another fourth of the way through, and so on, pretty much through the entirety of the album. But enough about me, let’s talk about you. ;D
You’re totally going to want to download this, for one. Second, you’re going to want to be alone, preferably in the dark. This is just that kind of album: the kind of album I instantly fall in “something like love” with. Over half of it is like dark roasted java for the soul, a 3:00 AM sojourn in parasomnia. The real beauty in isolationist ambient music like this is how it can just grab your heart sometimes and make you feel like there is some sort of cosmic pan-universal consciousness singularity of love and wisdom, within which you are a sole, secret member, and this is the latest in a series of transmissions received. Welcome to the club! The rest of the album can get a bit off-concept, but it still manages to charm you with it’s wiles.
This work tends toward starkness and bleak solitude, and feels almost Nietzschean. Borrowed from the artist’s own notes:
“Praying for the Be(a)st is the second “Act” of the triptych with the same name. This section is a narrative of our character’s struggle to find a cure to the plague that his mind has become after visiting Mother Superior in the first act. After tiresome tries to tie a connection with the outside world, a lack of power and therefore, a need for a better perspective is imperative.
The album follows the character as he tries to find shelter in the shades of gray and learns to adapt to any means necessary to get rid of any short-term turmoils. While the real world seems more and more distant, he sees himself as the strongest force in his universe. Creating demons to fight and stars to dismantle, future is not for a few days still.”
The first track is ‘We Are Only Safe Before Sunrise’, and it starts off sweet, like a serene (if neutral and shaded) landscape painting. Things get ominous soon after, then open up again partially later with the addition of vocals and trickle-down sine waves. The percussion is rigid and interrupted, keeping you at alert. It feels like you’re standing in Moscow staring up at a red sky, or at the edge of infinity. My only complaint is that it ends rather abruptly.
Then it’s ‘Wasted Faces In Secret Places’, an electro-tinged post rock chill-out track with a depressive slant. I really loved this.
‘Don’t Give Up On Me, Dad’ starts of with a downtempo break and a bass guitar sound (maybe programmed…) with a piano melody. Symphonic strings with a slight phase come into the mix, and then a breakdown with violin and low-key guitar work that I found reminiscent of prog rock. Through most of the song the melodies flit from melancholic to uplifting. Honestly, for me, this track was a low point in the album, I think because there is a quality to the track that feels a little “folksy sentimental”.
‘Glowing Like Angels, You Are On Fire’ brings back the low key melancholy. The guitars and underlying ambiance are all that comprise it, and it’s minimalistic and melodic song structure is both smart and pretty, but again, it ends far too abruptly.
The next track is ‘Ghosts Keep Me Safe, While You Are Gone’. A slightly distorted electric piano and vibraphone paint a picture of loneliness, while eventually wah guitar slides back and forth across the earlobes in both channels, making you feel very happy even though the melodies make you want to be sad. Then the guitars clean up a little, but still with a lot of reverb, and you just think to yourself that this is a wonderful album so far.
‘Neither Of Us Will Live On’ continues the trend of downward-leering inner turmoil, then adds a downtempo groove and some sick bass growls to the mix. Guitars-like-phantoms reverberate in the middle-ground, oozing ectoplasm as they play. Swirling textures and some kind of banging noise end the song. Very nice!
Starting off with just a simple beat and a triangle, ‘Bloodlights (Oh I Sleep)’ eventually gives way to treated vocal muttering. By the time the bells fade in, the mood has already taken yet another left turn into the darkness. I think I heard birds at one point, too. The track ends with a very lovely, eerie melody.
Into a haunted cabaret comes ‘Hours Of The Night’. It orders a martini and proceeds to talk to you about fellatio while stroking it’s pencil-thin mustache. It’s very short, but pretty cool and jazzy.
Speaking of cool, track nine is definitely one of my favourites on the album so far. It’s titled ‘Prog Jazz (All Musicians Are Freaks)’, which… is probably true. It starts off with something I found reminiscent of Galaxy 2 Galaxy’s album A Hitech Jazz Compilation. The drums were a bit weak, I felt they sounded like a virtual set I once played around with someplace, but the sounds everywhere else are totally great. Lots of echoing, reverberating synths that sound lush, gorgeous and funky above all. I would listen to this in a lounge!
The first half of ‘When You Die’ was another low point for me, as I felt the melodies were uninteresting compared to much of the rest of the material elsewhere, but things picked up almost halfway through with the addition of a creepy, carnivalesque melody. The drumwork never really grasped me, despite the idm-style editing, and eventually the sounds more or less return to what they were doing at the start of the track.
‘To Rid The Be(a)st’ was someplace between Hawaii and Arabia sound and melody-wise. Interesting, but I began to wonder what had happened to the cup of tea I had been enjoying two tracks ago. At 3:30, everything gets a bit better. The drums have gotten darker, everything sounds lower in the mix. A bass warble comes in, then later a popcorn-style synthesizer. I’m enjoying myself again and just soaking in the strangeness of it all at this point, how far leftfield everything went…
… just in time to hear this! Track 12, ‘Necrosis Stupor’ brings down the house, literally, by banging on it’s foundations and letting some smooth mofo thumbslap a bass guitar, before some more magic happens with synthesizers toward the end. Another one of my favourite tracks on the whole album, in spite of it being so short!
‘Curl Up, Time To Die (When Jazz Ate My Soul)’… it’s like, so good. Vocals make a strong return here, the groove is low-key and pseudo-jazzy, not to mention very dark. Some total cheese drum threatens to come in for good later on, but it goes away. Things after all of the beats disappear get ultra dark, combining what feels like a murderous soliloquy with ambient progressions that make for an intriguing partnership.
Very pretty, ‘No One Ever Comes Here, But Me’ might have one of the most isolationist and evocative introductions on the album. It’s ambient and like a soundtrack, with pizzacato strings, guitars, textures, everything. Eventually a heavily-edited beat comes in, but it all works very well.
Track 15, ‘Freelance Dream Killing Machine’, starts off as a vocal soundscape plus noise, and in the midst of all this other material, manages to feel very unsettling! Eventually a programmed bassline and percussion come in, along with a train-horn-in-passing sounding guitar. More noises come in, to make everything even more jarring.
‘We, The Howling Damned’ is all about disturbing guitar strumming and the spoken word, manipulated to great effect. Stimulating and unnerving.
‘Treacherous’ takes a more straightforward approach to the percussion, bringing the light-touch electro groove back, adding guitars and other string textures. 1:34 is where shit gets really cool, with a rolling bass on the prowl and strings like a soundtrack. All of the melodies and harmonies are lovely. This is another of my favourite tracks here!
Beginning with reversed drums, then going right into some break groove with guitar and bells is ’30 Pieces Of Silver’. Eventually another electric guitar scream in, and the track decides to take a momentary pause, before resuming the groove. Really nice, and more “epic” toward the end. The horns add a nice flair as well!
‘Knife Party’ is a toy piano, a programmed bass, a theremin, and then out of nowhere: a crunchy guitar comes in, and then things get kind of metal. It’s not bad, mostly because this whole thing is still so out there. The track ends on a lovely, ambient note.
So… lots of material on this album, and while some of it almost feels like it strays from the concept binding everything together, the majority of it is just very cool and melancholy. Many of the sounds, as far as the percussion and bass are concerned primarily, are a bit on the cheap-midi side of things, but you’ll hardly mind due to the lovely ambient sounds and tasteful guitar work. I’d say… give it a listen, you won’t regret it! And here’s a link: