Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Album Review: The ReAktion - "SELKNAM"

Electronic music has become such a large part of the music-listening consciousness that new attempts to synthesize the burgeoning genre with the tenets of more established genres are inevitable.  Despite the protestations of rock’s most ardent defenders that the genre must maintain its purity (although there is hilariously little agreement on what that purity entails,) the roll clouds that act as harbingers of electronic’s coming storm proceed on unhindered.  To that end, electronic music has already seeped into other picket genres like rap and metal, thus opening the gates for a clear assault on the rock flagship in the center.

The ReAktion, an upstart band from Chile may well be the vanguard of the two genre’s eventual mixing, but negotiates the tenets of rock through the designs of a tertiary party, incorporating some of the base elements of hardcore into the music as a catalyst for their new album “SELKNAM.”

Following a brief introduction, the album’s opener “10 Steps to Success” uses the components of hardcore’s thundering choruses as a backbone to incorporate their electronic influences, slipping in the computerized tones set against the overdriven blackness of the stomping guitar.  We’ve seen this not so long ago as bands like Exotype used the same basic offense, but ReAktion takes the proceedings a step further.  As the song wends along, it eventually gives way to a committed if perhaps unexpected full EDM breakdown, likely complete with glow sticks and furry boots.

The album transitions quickly to “Teach Me How to Stop the World,” which bends more toward the traditional rock side in its underpinnings, but the ever-present EDM underpinning gives the listener a new dimension that makes the song pop.

Speaking of, “SELKNAM” gets poppier as it goes along, which isn’t necessarily bad depending on your taste, but is worth noting.  The Gavin Rosdale-meets-emocore vocal delivery of Simon Rojas gets a little long in the tooth by the record’s conclusion, but to his credit he doesn’t try to do anything he’s not capable of.  It’s an even performance, whether he’s gutting out screaming choruses or trying to fit in the pocket of the soft alt-rock ballad of “Thousands of Memories.”

“SELKNAM” is strongest at beginning and end, which means the middle third is a slog.  There’s a lot of the same song over and over again in the album’s meaty center, admirable for songs that play their stories out over nearly five minutes, but dragging in the repetition of the same basic hardcore breakdowns and dramatic rock choruses for six or seven tunes in a row.  “SELKNAM” suffers from a slight addiction to melodrama, the album being unable to really maintain the promising opening gallop of “The Network.”

The ReAktion leaves on a couple of high notes though, the first of which is an up-tempo and academically interesting cover of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe,” which seems far afield for the album’s musical theme, but that only serves to make the cover more interesting.  The album’s final kicker is “Enter the Fourth Dimension,” a song that sounds like the juxtaposition of Red Eleven and Destrage, which means there’s a lot right going on here, including the artful incorporation of an EDM bridge that sounds perfectly placed.

It’s in these moments that “SELKNAM” is worthy of comment and inspection in the first place.  The ReAktion has crafted an album that is not nearly perfect, but shows the promise of the eventual cross-breed of rock, hardcore and EDM.  By going outside the boundaries of those genres in order to combine them all, “SELKNAM,” in isolated moments, has its cake and eats it, too.  The album is a clear statement at a time when the waters of genre have been muddied.  Now, The ReAktion has a fair amount of fat to cut and work to do, but there’s a lot of promise in their take on cross-genre pollination on the whole.

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