Sunday, 6 November 2011

Radio For The Daydreamers - Mother Superior And Her Fields Of Migraines

In which Pittsburgh experimentalists Radio For Daydreamers take a leap forward from the sometimes irritating over-zealous minimalism of 2009's Clouds Of Smoke And Poison. This new album's title may lead you to expect an hour's worth of headache-inducing noise, but you'd be wrong. No, this album is a thing of melancholic melody, if of the strangely strange but oddly normal variety. Drawing on influences as far apart as modern electronica, jazz, classical, and good old pop, Mother Superior And Her Fields Of Migraines is a somewhat misleading title.

Video for Wasted Faces In Secret Places - electric mix

The first part in a triptych, alluringly titled "Praying For The Be(a)st" Mother Superior is sub-titled Act, relating the story of the protagonist and takes place in a single room where our hero is "..indulging in misery, self-realization, seclusion, developing phobias, anxieties and a need to break out to help his own mind. Accepting negativities, even though it is clear that the consequences of those negativities would be grim. To accept evil just to get some purpose." If that sounds a bit self-indulgent then it is probably meant to. Any album that uses Voltaire in two of its track titles is telling you something about its creators is it not? I wonder what the guys and gals in the band do for fun? They probably pull the legs of spiders at the very least.

Let's give them the benefit of doubt though, and treat what they have put serious thought into as the work of art they obviously want listeners to appreciate it as. Judging by the video above, and the subtext of Wasted Faces In Secret Places..."behind this wall we stand tall", one interpretation could be that one is always sheltering beihnd a veil of isolation, a veil behind which one's real character stands "tall". It would certainly fit in with the protagonist's story. Maybe! 

Sonically a vast improvement from their first album, Crawl Into My Crawl Space references early Cure, intentionally or not I don't know. There are even moments of an almost upbeat nature, I Am Not Coming Back Home sounding like Bongwater with a hangover. God these folk are serious...too serious at an age when they should be in awe of life's many surprises instead of determinedly immersing themselves in grim-faced navel gazing. I don't suppose you can blame them really in an age when the future seems as bleak as at any time since the height of the Cold War.

The instrumental tracks can offer moments of beauty, for example the lovely but simple piano motif on Ghosts Keep Me Safe, While You Are Gone, and the cellos on No One Ever Comes Here, But Me conjuring the mournful introspective atmosphere they were obviously intended to. The unrelentingly grim lyrics of Curl Up, Time To Die where our hero is battling with self-imagined demons and losing do not exactly give you the chance to extend any sympathy to him as he seems intent on creating his own pit of depression, wallowing in it, giving the finger to the outside world. The oh-so-bleak lyrical imagery..."Curl up inside, time to die, the night sleeps and young die, close your eyes"... is cleverly counterpointed by being sung by a disinterested female voice, which actually works quite well. And, Every God Is A Monster almost rocks, albeit in a knowing way, while Freelance Dream Killing Machine sounds like The Flaming Lips in a very bad mood. Always In Hallways must get a mention as having the best song title I've seen for some time!

Not an album to play if you're already feeling down, but, like the first album, a perfect accompaniment to a comedown, Mother Superior is however interesting enough to return to in moments of introspection. What Parts two and three of the triptych bring us is anyone's guess, but can it get any more dark? Probably...

1. Black River Time Bombs (3:33)
2. With Wings, You Will Learn To Fall (3:01)
3. Wasted Faces In Secret Places (Behind This Wall acoustic version)  (3:13)
4. Crawl Into My Crawl Space (3:35)
5. Ghosts Keep Me Safe, While You Are Gone (4:00)
6. Magnetar Mephisto (3:50)
7. Goodbye Voltaire (You Gave Me Sleep) (3:44)
8. I Am Not Coming Back Home (3:07)
9. Goodbye Voltaire (And All The Rain That Made Me Smile) (3:44)
10. No One Ever Comes Here, But Me (4:36)
11. Always In Hallways (3:17)
12. Curl Up, Time To Die (3:40)
13. Praying For The Be(a)st (1:55)
14. Every god Is A Monster (4:05)
15. Freelance Dream Killing Machine (2:58)

Line up:
The mystery is maintained...I've not a clue...

3 out of 5

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