Happy, clappy ambience is one thing but There Has To Be More. Hence why RadioSeeds’s soft electronic debut is something of a mixed bag.
An album with enough foresight can really give you an impression of what an artist is endeavouring to achieve. Yet an album that is too many steps ahead of itself looses something in the translation. RadioSeed’s There Has To Be More is both a chirpy album for summer and a letdown for winter. Released in late 2010, these sun-kissed ambient tracks felt very out of place. However there were a few truly vivid trance testimonials which kept me listening to the album over and over again.
Coming from the Swedish twosome Ecovillage, Peter Wikström (aka RadioSeed) already had a developed hippy fan base to ply his trade to before this release. Apparently, hoping to instil the same vibrations of psychedelic, euphoric electro-pop in the album There Has To Be More, RadioSeed hasn’t strayed too far from Ecovillage’s musical model. Utilising boy band vocals, as many instruments as he could muster and a synthesizer where his heart should be, RadioSeed goes it alone to erase your gloom.
The opening number Magic Friday is an instrumental warm up, lively and indulgent. The whispering vocals lead you to believe that the album will be sweet, subtle and slightly haunting. Like many of their fledgling contemporaries, such as US English and Cursed Kids, they combine pop vocals with atmospheric, echoing synth melodies. The balance is crucial however, too much pop and it loses authenticity, too little and you’ve got a pretty dull dance record on your hands. Magic Friday is a good first impression, getting this balance right for all of the two minutes and five that it plays.
Then Raspberry Cream Dream starts. I’m sorry but I just threw up a little in my mouth. This sickly, sycophantic, drippy, nonsensical claptrap can’t be redeemed. If you tune out all the OTT fluff the use of pan pipes and bird songs is actually interesting. However it’s so deep in the background many won’t be bothered to listen through the candy coating. It just makes me glad that this isn’t a wholly a progressive experiment in bimbo music.
Kissed Your Galaxy Goodbye begins better and has an improved sense of repetition. Falling into a mix of eighties trance and harmonised vocals it’s okay, but it isn’t mould breaking. It does do what it needs to and that is; being a chilled dance song with a satisfactory beat to make shapes to (at least without embarrassing yourself too much). Notably in Kissed… we’re introduced to Elin Blennborn’s feminine singing, an intriguingly sudden if underused soprano.
I long ago acknowledged a musicological theory: the less ‘Boys2Men’ style singing there is the more superior the track. A fact any musician worth their salt should be aware of. RadioSeed seems to have missed this lesson and Like Water is evidence of that. Containing rich instrumentals and rhythmic world flavourings this could have been a graceful ‘hit’. But the singing, oh the singing! Being hit with a wet fish reeking of refreshers is infinitely preferable to hearing this guy sing. The notion is that these lyrics are heartfelt and profound is laughable compared to what they really are, mawkish, mundane and sappy.
Summer Shower is more of the same except it really rubs salt into the winter wound. Is this more than an opportunistic shot at establishing the album as a summer dance staple even though the Yuletide season has barely passed us by? This would be excusable if it wasn’t such a poor pretender to the throne. It begins with a nice and creepy flex of its techno fingers, but hopes are dashed with the appearance of the same camp and facile singing. In the end, the cheerfulness of this song is listenable but sadly uninteresting.
You may be wondering whether this album is worth the bother, to know for certain you must listen to the title track, There Has To Be More. This is leagues ahead of the other songs, bringing the female vocal back in for a refreshing, light and ethereal experience. I couldn’t believe that such a delightful trance cut, strongly reminiscent of early Nitin Sawhney in its confident beauty, would be hidden on this album. With the departure of the N-Sync stupidity the saucer-eyed, arm-waving, glow stick rocking bliss I’d anticipated had finally arrived.
Keep Your Friends Close is less climatic but continues the strong ambient framework setup by the previous track. Cathedral sized techno chords wash over the listener like the waves looped in the background. With great percussion and the solid use of down tempo reverb, the album appears to be spiritually unfolding. Seamlessly transitioning into Pearly Sister, we’re treated to a mellow and hypnotic pulse that slows everything down before drifting into the the next song which takes it back up a notch with a salivating dose of electric guitar. This signals entrance to another realm of Peter Wikström’s existential experiment, without irony You Make Me Better literally made this album better. You feel as if the first half of the album was RadioSeed’s taste convalescence, painful yet necessary in order for it to flourish within these tracks.
Then RadioSeed went and spoiled the ride. Rise Your Mountain uses Elin Blennborn’s sweet voice to add depth; however it’s made to sound somewhat like Taylor Swift. This confusing and childish duet belongs on a kid’s movie, possibly a film about a dog that falls in love with a cat, in Africa, with twenty-four hours to save the Earth. I would see that, I like cats, and Africa, and the earth. However to its credit track 11 is not as bad as the album’s first half, with an accomplished use of synth to save it from total condemnation. The last song, Miracle of Triumphant decides to go off on a welcome tangent, bringing us back to the unexpected duplicity of Magic Friday. A climatic and creative voyage that, honest to God, twinkles. It’s the only word I can think to accurately describe it. Twinkles. I will resign tomorrow.
So why did this album falter so much with the painfully pop style in tracks 2 till 5? Peter Wikström appears to be attempting a mimesis, trying to emote the positive expression of a negative experience. This ended up feeling bland and crass. Nevertheless the wholesome, if still clearly acid induced narrative of this album is an angular journey of rebirth. Testing the waters and expanding his horizons, RadioSeed needed to break out of Ecovillage’s synth shadow. By exploring both the pop and the techno, better music could be made. It’s just a shame that he didn’t hide the worse of these experiments from the world. No matter how good There Has To Be More is, I will never forget how amazing it could have been.
(Quince Records, 2010)