Live Review: Radar Men From The Moon, Paris, France, Sept. 15, 2016


Pants-pissing futurists and backseat philosophers dread the imminent technological singularity for the existential threat it supposedly poses to humanity. We bold, however, say “meh.”

Dutch visionaries Radar Men From The Moon just may be the canary in that post-human coal mine. As recently as 2014’s Strange Wave Galore LP, the all-instrumental quartet engaged largely in gritty space rock. The group restricted its keyboards to sci-fi atmospherics that accented the hard-driving psych metal and timid bleeps that recreated Ms. Pac-Man’s queefs.

But the first two installments of the group’s Subversive triptych rewrite the source code. The synths have commandeered the band’s guidance system, driving the songs forward rather than merely draping them with a frilly overcoat. Guitar, bass and drums are now more measured.

In Paris’ suffocating Espace B club, the controlled experiment plays out with considerably less reserve.

“You Filled the House With Merciless Sand” and “Splendor Of The Wicked,” both rather tame on the new Subversive II record, are tonight punishing attacks of industrial boogie. “Habitual,” from Subversive I, experiments with a feather-light minimalism that flirts with both surf and krautrock. Although played with robotic precision, the songs still feel as if they are performed rather than programmed. The repeated motifs and white-noise squalls do result in a thick drone but not one that is dehumanizing or overly hypnotic. Tony Lathouwers plays a kit composed of electronic and acoustic drums; his sharp snaps intertwine like bionics in flesh, the digital seemingly mocking the analog.

Set highlight “Masked Disobedience” storms with synth dementia and rhythmic fury then swallows itself into a black hole. It is a wailing cluster-fuck of baroque indulgence. Jorge Luis Borges, el Gran Maestro in such (and most) matters, asserted that the baroque represented the death throes of art, the weight of its aesthetic extravagance collapsing in on itself. If—by extension—the hubris of converting all human activity into digital information spells our collective doom, and RMFTM is that first ray peeking over the eastern horizon, then … bring … it … on.

—Eric Bensel