Radarmaker has come to mean a number of things throughout the six years of its existence. Beginning life in 2001 as a plaintive acoustic-pop trio making polite songs about quiet yearning, the acquisition of new instrumentation, an extra member and a boost in bravado saw the band consolidate what may be considered as their definitive line-up. Radarmaker from 2003 onwards consisted of Wendi Graham - whose delicate voice betrays her musical resilience, Warwick Hall - sturdy rhythm guitarist and progenitor of many of the bands catchier riffs, Adam Trainer - frontman, lout and laughing stock, and versatile genius Noah Norton. In this incarnation the band created songs and soundscapes that traversed the delicate and the chunky, the poetic and the provocative, the beautiful and the destructuve elements of indie rock, whatever that might be. With a penchant for experimentation and musical meditation it was no surprise that they collected the tagline of ‘post-rock’, which worked as both a blessing and a curse for a band whose ambition matched the calling card of that genre but whose output did not fit its formal or characteristic constraints. Playing alongside local greats and parading their wares in pubs, clubs, skate parks, town fetes, art spaces, back yards and other venues of ill repute, the band has had the good fortune to help launch releases by the likes of Schvendes, Mukaizake, Airport City Shuffle and found:quantity of sheep, as well as the perennial ‘first past the post’ zine, of which they have become amicable patrons. In 2005 the band were nominated for ‘Best Music Video’ WAMI & WASA awards for their self-made video clip - ‘Arm vs. Fiery Antenna’. Their debut record, released independently, was the iconic and benevolent 'Aristocracy and the Horse', which criss-crossed through cyclical melodies, wistful maladroit, driving skittishness and thunderous cacophony. In early 2006 the band performed live to a jam-packed Hyde Park Hotel as the onstage score for Michelle Sowden’s theatrical production of Sam Shepard and Patti Smith’s ‘Cowboy Mouth’. The band was also featured on the line-up of two Artrage sponsored Road Trip extravaganzas, playing accompanying music to ‘The City of Lost Children and ‘Spirited Away’. Produced over a hectic ten-month period, the band’s first long player, ‘Drawn Like Spires’ arguably showed the progression of a band who had matured musically, had honed its dynamic and had focused not only its song-writing, but its command of musical exploration and structural experimentation. Launched to a capacity-crowd at The Bakery art space in July of 2006, as soon as it was over Adam was whisked away to the jungles of Borneo. However, with plans to maintain a gigging schedule as a three-piece and to continue recording via correspondence, Radarmaker itself is far from over and will hopefully come to mean a great many new things in the future.
Warwick Hall - Guitar, Bass, Glockenspeil, Vox
Wendi Graham - Guitar, Bass, Glockenspeil, Drums, Vox
Adam Trainer - Guitar, Bass, Drums, Programming, Vox
Noah Norton - Guitar, Bass, Harmonica, Drums, Vox
Aristocracy and the Horse EP - 2005
Drawn Like Spires LP - 2006
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Radarmaker’s master of the screwdriver-on-six-string, melancholic guitar-haze (and the occasional an...Radarmaker’s master of the screwdriver-on-six-string, melancholic guitar-haze (and the occasional angst-shedding, tonsil-shredding primal scream), Adam Trainer, has long since disowned the “post-rock” tag when itcomes to describing his own band’s sound. Anyone who’s followed thishugely-talented Perth outfit’s growth as a liveact will understand why,and Drawn Like Spires is a debut album that foregrounds a love of “indie-rock” song-form; while also boasting one of the most hauntingly beautiful, exquisitely textured, and largely instrumental (ie: “ post-rock-ish”) soundscapes you’re ever likely to hear.
The 13-track set opens with an urgent snare-roll and the rush of distorted guitars, before “Balthazaar” shifts gears to reveal a lovely pop-shuffle and Wendi Graham’s melodic/angelic vocal lines (which recall those of The Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler at times). Foreboding guitar-clouds then begin to roll in, and it isn’t long before Radarmaker’s three-guitar tag-team are finding release in a squall of glorious abrasion and feedback overload – evoking Sonic Youth in the process, and cleansing the sonic palette for the spiky sing-along that is live favourite “Shallow Socialites (Battle The Axe)”.
Also a stand-out in recorded form, there’s a delicious combination of sweetness and menace in the track’s memorable vocal hooks (‘hey man’, ‘got you running all over the place’), and in its insistent, rise-and-fall rhythm and structure. There’s even a post grunge guitar blast at just the right moment, making “Shallow Socialites…” the album’s most immediate “ indie/alt-rock” radio cut and/or single – with the tender ache and bruised anguish of “Squibbon”, and the sweet-and-swaggering (Wendi and Adam) double-act that is “Whoop Tuffet”, also confirming the band’s accomplished songsmithery.
Elsewhere, the influence of local legends The Tigers looms a little too large on “Gary Oldman”, while “Stop Being A Wanker” obviously takes its cues from aforementioned global-legends Sonic Youth. A number of short interludes more effectively demonstrate the musical diversity that is Radarmaker’s strength (check the 50-second snapshot of Icelandic, “ post-rock” beauty that is “Clodhopper”, or the subtle processing that creates the lovely, looping textures of “Metabo Elektrowerkzeuge”); although it’s harder to recommend the combination of harmonica and crowd-noise that’s the basis of the album’s penultimate track, the rather forgettable “Ogden’s Cormorant”.
Of course, at the centre of Drawn Like Spires – and undoubtedly the recording’s centrepiece – is “Sashegyi”, the aforementioned “ post-rock-ish” soundscape, and the track that’s often completed the band’s live set in glorious, goose-bumping style. This absorbing sonic journey begins with Adam’s simmering screwdriver-caress, and slowly builds in intensity as layers of crystalline, chordal, reverb-drenched and, then, totally distorted guitar are added, with meticulous attention-to-detail, across five minutes. Then, after taking a few moments to catch its collective breath, the band turns “Sashegyi” towards the heavens; and it’s hard to imagine how those soaring guitars and utterly gorgeous harmony vocals could fail to evoke an emotional response.
For this writer, every nine-minute listen stirs a melancholic ache, AND an invigorating, energising sense of wellbeing, connection and hope. And goose bumps. Promising instrumental closer “Trees Of Greenland” – which was initially a “Sashegyi” jam tangent, apparently – can only hint at such rare sonic turf in its over-too-soon two minutes-and-seven-seconds. The understated “Domovoi” also deserves special mention for successfully combining ethereal song-form and a jazzy, instrumental workout; and for creating a rather unique, and very loveable ‘mongrel’ in the process. Ultimately, then, Drawn Like Spires demonstrates that Radarmaker – despite taking its moniker from a track on Mogwai’s Young Team album – has long-since dispensed with the generic conventions of “post-rock”. Fond memories of quiet, slowly evolving instrumental sets at the Hydey aside, this much-loved four-piece is finding its own sound amongst a range of musical passions; and, at its best, is VERY good indeed.
Arm Vs Fiery Antenna
Shallow Socialites (Battle the Axe)
Stop Being a Wanker