All India Radio
Red Shadow Landing
11 Track, LP (2012, Inevitable)
Related: All India Radio.
In a culture of instant thrills, short concentration spans and tedious melodrama, you have to respect a band like All India Radio. It’s not just their music that is patient, precise and deliberate – after forming in 2000 the four-piece have steadily ebbed their way along, upsetting nobody and pouring themselves into album after album of considered and rather painfully adult compositions. Not really any tangents into the weird, nor journeys to pop’s centre ground: just elegant soundtrack music that words like ‘cinematic’ and ‘atmospheric’ are serially wheeled out for.
Red Shadow Landing is All India Radio’s 11th album and their first since the brains behind the band, Martin Kennedy, released 2011’s White Magic with Steve Kilbey of The Church. It’s true to form: great sweeping statements evoking solitude and landscapes, with the firm grounding in spaghetti westerns and Ennio Morricone that they have been beholden to for years. It generally works beautifully, with a velvety sensuality and subtlety interweaving with the grand arrangements. The Americana inflections and ambient electronica move it away from any classic notion of prog, but the post-rock tag, for all its limitations, does seem appropriate for the Melbourne group in their insistence on the cerebral over the visceral.
‘Owlpacas in Flight’, despite the overt Fleetwood Mac-isms, is probably the culmination of all this, while ‘Like a Butterfly’ is a telling reminder of the huge impression this band can leave without seeming to do very much. The album isn’t always on a high, and the crescendos are measured and thankfully not overdone. Again, the presence of an intelligent and mindful creator looms large.
But it’s lovely chord progression after lovely chord progression without too many meaningful changes of pace. A certain degree of obviousness – the descending guitar refrain on ‘The Lie’ recalls many riffs from rock’s past – is required of a new All India Radio album, but something a little more experimental, either instrumentally or rhythmically, might break things up as well as add greater weight to the more heavily emotional tracks. Twelve years into their career, however, that may be unlikely to happen. But what they do, within very exact parameters, they do pretty well.
by Barnaby Smith