All India Radio
nfettered from corporeal attachments—sometimes entirely if they wanted to—I always felt that electronic musicians were masqueraders and hucksters of the highest association. Their voices were found solely in the loops and keys, their names in the album tracks and the CD spine. Nick Southall’s review last year of Boards of Canada’s The Campfire Headphase precisely called this phenomenon myth, for nowhere else are we as in the dark about the means a music was created, nowhere more are we subject to a warped but familiar figure than music that takes something as visceral as the electric guitar and makes us think it’s entirely alien.
But myth succeeds only when it resembles our humanity, when it fully mirrors our lore and licenses our intuitions. No doubt if you asked a fan of BoC’s music what “The Beach at Redpoint” actually means you’d be met with a vexed return, not because the person doesn’t know, rather the person knows all too well—to the point that words cannot project the weight of such complex qualia. So in the end, whether the music was artificially aged or involves complex numerical theory is never the yardstick for those who wish to determine how its skin feels and how it moves. This is the lesson to be learned for anyone who undertakes such a musical format and, indeed, I suspect it’s the subconscious heuristic to which the successful musicians hew.
Permanent Evolutions is a remix and rarities album from All India Radio, an Australian duo that inhabits the same mechanical space as BoC: down-tempo beats, disfigured percussion, and a seemingly multilingual keyboard. The remix album itself can be a joyless affair where musicians either contribute in an attempt to further reify the original artist as a caricature (e.g. Beck’s Guerolito) or do so with little attempt to make the remix compilation cohesive at all (Death From Above 1979). (Un)fortunately, neither of those two depictions really fits All India Radio’s since the remixes and edits do very little to reconfiguring either the original sound or energy of the band. This is something that, above all, could fit easily in their catalogue.
But since these songs lack original flares and recall the duo’s earlier and less developed identity, as found on something like The Inevitable, this ends up working to their detriment. A further problem is the rather incongruous nature of the album, which includes ample pieces of sonic fluff like the 48-second “Little Mexico” or the Am Remix of “Dark Ambient,” which is nothing more than a rising electronic fog that dissipates as quickly as it forms. And while Permanent Evolutions seems to be vying for the same space as BoC, it often comes closer to the suffocated downbeat of Bowery Electric—only it’s never half as sublime. Similarly, the one vocal effort on the album, the All India Radio vs. Don Meers remix of “For Angel,” sounds like a weaker Lamb or an even more generic version of Zero 7.
While not entirely bereft of successes—the Don Meers remix of “Permanent Revolutions” and “Lo Fi Groovy” being the most prominent—the songs here seem bent on replicating others. “Dehli Dub” recalls the reverb M.O. of Mad Professor or Teargas and Plateglass while “Life And How To Do It,” “Old India,” and “Pray to The TV Funk (Left Brain Mix)” sound like discarded b-sides from Savath and Savalas’s Folk Songs For Trains, Trees, and Honey. The Morphodic Bliss Mix of “How Many, For How Long” even sounds like Portishead without the smoke or melancholy, but with the same glacial beat and bent guitar notes.
Perhaps it was malapropos to speak of myth when an album such as Permanent Evolution comes about, since the artists themselves aren’t carving the bust and instead giving an already finished depiction to many other hands. It pulls a thousand voices from a thousand different directions, giving us a random smattering that never coheres. There’s no myth because we can’t see the artists involved and we can’t see ourselves through them.
Reviewed by: Ayo Jegede
Reviewed on: 2006-03-03