Thursday, August 06, 2009

Upsilon Acrux - Radian Futura (Cuneiform, 2009)


I'll tell ya up front: Radian Futura is not a metal album. But L.A. guitarist Paul Lai once told me that there was a submerged metal influence in the music of his band Upsilon Acrux. I've no doubt it's true, though it's even more submerged on their sixth disc, the follow-up to the triumphant Galapagos Momentum (reviewed here). What a transformation it would be if Lai and David Moeggenberg's guitars criss-crossed in black metal latticework instead of tapped ping-pong pizzicato, or if drummer Chris Meszler trumped up his double-kick technique and played surges of blastbeats instead of, like, every single other kind of drum pattern! But no, Upsilon Acrux work in counterpoint and polyrhythm more than volume and riffs, and they're all the more fascinating a band for it. There is a bit of metal in the album's cover art though -- look below the throbbing Storm Thorgerson eyeball and you might detect some dystopian Dan Seagrave







"In-A-Gadda-Devito"






"Keeping Rice Evil"

The density of Upsilon Acrux's hyper-space compositions (and these are compositions, not songs) is a different kind of density than, say, Immolation's. It suffocates with silly string, not smoke. And the vibe is unlike any other band's -- the thinness of the guitar and bass tones deliberately undercuts the virtuosity on display in a monster jam like "In-A-Gadda-Devito," so we're left with big prog songs that feel small. Which is a strange place to be at the end of the 28-minute "Transparent Seas (Radio Edit)." You want a huge resolution, as thanks for getting through nearly half an hour of bizarro counterpoint and circus waltzes and drum solos. Nope, it's a quiet 5/4 drum 'n keyboard riff that rides us off into Radian Futura's thoroughly alien closer, "The Infinitesimal Fractions of Ping & Pong." What the hell just happened? And is it weird that I want it to happen again?


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