So there’s this blender. It sits in the studio where the collective called Radio Free Clear Light make music. Into this blender go all manner of things: noise, jazz, glitch, downtempo grooves, found sounds…and then they hit “Pulse” and bring it all together. That can be the only explanation for the odd, funky coolness of Joyful Noise Vol 3: Image of the Invisible Unknown. Sure, it can get weird, like the squiggly, shrieking gurgles, sax squelches, and fairly indescribable (and borderline annoying) grunts and cries of “Ovum Gnosis,” but in large part these six tracks chart a path through ear-friendly spaces. To its credit, it whirls into the equally dizzying but mostly less grating title track. Driven by a growly, almost cartoonish voice, it becomes a madly stacked pile of parts clambering all over each other, underlaid with a crunchy groove. That’s something of a hallmark of RFCL’s outsider sound–it always cleaves to some kind of glitch-loaded beat that takes hold and guides you through the jigsaw of sound around you. Sometimes much of the focus is on that, like the bare beat of “The Sound and the Process.” Yes, the weird blender concoction still spews around the room in disembodied vocal drops, twisting lines of avant-garde jazz sax, and splashes of wayward electro-sound, but that beat cuts a followable through-line straight down the center.
I tend to enjoy RFCL more than I expect to, as weird as it gets. This album heads into territory familiar to them, and although there is the very real threat of losing me during “Ovum Gnosis,” I can skip past that and get back into that mixed emotion of digging the vibe while wondering just what the fuck I’m listening to–and why. RFCL has never been music for the masses, and it takes a daring ear to take this trip. Check out a track other than “Ovum” and see if this concoction hits your taste buds.
Available from CD Baby.