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Radio Dept. at Petit Campus

Posted by Christine / February 9, 2011

20110210radiodept.jpg Last Saturday, Sweden's Radio Dept. played a sold-out set of their signature dream pop and shoegaze medley at Petit Campus. Those of you in attendance will know that hardy fans groped their way through a blinding whirl of windswept snowfall to get to the venue. A journey that surely involved gazing at one's shoes out of sheer necessity (oh please, give me this one out of some misplaced sense of kindness). And so, my evening out began when the snow did, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.

Radio Dept. is a modest three-member band conceived during the mid 90's. Their name was inspired by "Radioavdelningen" (Swedish for Radio Department), a local gas station that had been turned into a radio repair shop.

Humble and soft-spoken in manner, Radio Dept. opened their set with "Freddie and the Trojan Horse." This track was meant to pay homage to Krautrock, a German electronic movement during the 70's. With smooth vocals moving effortlessly over abrupt, mechanical drum beats, this song created a dynamic sense of push and pull redolent of Kraftwerk. "Das Model" in particular will illustrate this for you.

They followed up with "This Time Around", a fresh selection off what is arguably their break through album, last year's Clinging to a Scheme. With its subtle, fuzzy driving keyboards, this track pulses an easy, yet gritty feel that could very well find its way into your next road trip mix tape. Happily wedged between low-fi pals Slowdive and Pavement, perhaps.

Radio Dept. peppered their set list with a well integrated array of low energy and upbeat, dance inducing tracks. An interesting ebb and flow of sound that washed over their ever eager audience in crashes of all consuming, tidal drum machine beats, and currents of soothing, reverberating guitar chords.

The arc of the show "The Worst Taste in Music," the sixth song of the set, was an offering from their second studio album, Pet Grief. A lovely little number with a calm, melancholy feel. The lyrics fell into cohesion with its sound, revealing a story of imperfect love. "Why would you bother to hang around? Even for some time, now. There will be others to frown upon, if it turns you on. But, he's got the worst taste in music. If I didn't know this I'd lose it."

"Never Follow Suit," off their newest album, was a sure crowd favorite. Verily, this song was my introduction to Radio Dept. and as such, elicited the singular joy I felt during the moment of its discovery. It had been casually thrown into a podcast I was plugged into within the postcard-laden walls of my cubicle, and set my hands ablaze typing further inquiry. Not a day later did I get my grubby paws on the entire album.

This all fell within a recent ambient, shoegaze, low-fi, etc. kick I've been on. Whenever I listen to myriad layers of sound that is be discovered in these music styles, I'm always reminded of Pollock's self-asserted "drip" painting technique. Splash after splash of sound from all directions, until what's left is a bold, stratified piece of art so overwhelming in its multitudes that it'll make your heart leap. It is an interesting coincidence that Pollock himself referred to good art in musical terms, as "pure harmony."

That's a way to explain what I felt about Radio Dept.'s performance. No wry, witty banter or wild stage mannerisms necessary to secure one's attention. The music spoke for itself.

They closed the set, appropriately enough, with "Closing Scene," and one by one, in silent gentlemanly pace, they exited the stage. First Johan Duncanson, then Martin Larsson, and finally Daniel Tjader.

Prompted by enthusiastic, drawn-out applause, Radio Dept. returned to their instruments. All coy smiles and shuffling feet, they played an encore of "Why Won't YouTalk About It?," a song off their debut album Lesser Matters. Every corner of the venue filled to the brim with a hearty, pulsing wall of sound that surely sent fans off with their appetites satisfied.

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