TV On The Radio

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
OK Calculator (2002), 6.5/10
Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes (2004) , 7/10
Return To Cookie Mountain (2006), 7.5/10
Dear Science (2008), 6/10
Nine Types of Light (2011), 6/10

TV On The Radio, New York's duo of vocalist Tunde Adebimpe (who graduated in cinematography) and multi-instrumentalist David Sitek (who is also a producer), debuted with a lo-fi limited-edition 24-song cassette, later retitled OK Calculator (Brooklyn Milk, 2002) and shortened to 18 songs. It's a breathtaking parade of goofy Ween-style parodies of musical genres the insane doo-wop of Freeway, the symphonic hip-hop of Say You Do (that samples Raymond Scott's Night and Day), the electronic minimalism of Pulse of Pete, the African chant of Me - I (whose coda is a romantic piano elegy), the spectral slow-motion rap Hurt You, the cartoonish cantata Netti Fritti (sung in Spanish), etc. Unfortunately the duo didn't stop there but kept packing also the most tedious and least musical of jokes in the cassette (even a 16-minute totally uneventful On a Train).

The EP Young Liars (Touch & Go, 2003), featuring Yeah Yeah Yeahs' members Brian Chase and Nick Zinner, was an equally bizarre hodgepodge of musical gags ranging from the pseudo-emo Young Liars to the catchy Staring at the Sun.

Adding guitarist and vocalist Kyp Malone of Iran, Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch & Go, 2004) was even more stylistically ambiguous, but began to reveal a method behind the madness: the fusion of futuristic electronica, nostalgic pop and punk verve (notably in Dreams) evoked Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain. Even the encyclopedic quotations littered throughout the songs were unmistakably Eno-esque in nature. Incorporating everything from progressive-rock dynamics to gospel chanting, TV On The Radio delivered the ideal soundtrack for the opening of the 21st century.
The Wrong Way blends pounding drums, driving horns and Captain Beefheart-esque bluesy vocals until they slowly coalesce into a hysterically swinging jump-blues a` la Rip Rig & Panic. Poppy concocts un unlikely fusion of doo-wop harmonies and shoegazing guitar. Don't Love You weaves a psychedelic raga around a distorted organ drone, a martial middle-eastern rhythm and petulant guitar tones. Wear You Out closes the album with a hypnotic crescendo of shamanic drumming, languid soul crooning and jazzy horns.
Few musicians have traveled the vast land bordered by the fractured industrial elegy of King Eternal, and the a-cappella vocal harmonies of Ambulance in just one album, or just one career.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Arranger)

I TV On The Radio, duo di New York composto da Tunde Adebimpe alla voce( laureatosi in cinematografia ) e dal polistrumentista David Andrew Sitek (che e` anche un produttore), debuttano con un album lo-fi da 24 brani in edizzione limitata, TV On The Radio (Brooklyn Milk, 2002), fiorito nell' EP Young Liars (Touch & Go, 2003), che vede la partecipazione di Brian Chase e Nick Zinner degli Yeah Yeah Yeah. Questo Š un bizzarro guazzabuglio di trovate musicali che spaziano dallo pseudo-emo di Young Liars alla coinvolgente Staring at the Sun.

Con l'aggiunta del cantante e chitarrista Kyp Malone, Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch & go, 2004) Š risultato essere addirittura maggiormente ambiguo stilisticamente, ma inizia a rivelarsi un metodo dietro la pazzia: la fusione di elettronica futuristica, pop nostalgico e verve punk evocano Taking Tiger Mountain di Brian Eno. Anche le enciclopediche citazioni gettate lŤ attraverso le canzoni sono tipicamente riconducibili al modo di fare di Eno. Incorporando tutto ci• che c'Š dalle dinamiche del progressive-rock alle armonie da gospel/doo-wop, i TV On The Radio hanno consegnato la colonna sonora ideale per il 21esimo secolo. Pochi musicisti hanno percorso il vasto territorio che ha per confini The Wrong Way e Ambulance in un unico album, o in una intera carriera.

The unlikely wedding of doo-wop, shoegazing and digital ambience turned Return To Cookie Mountain (4AD, 2006) into an even more tormented sonic feast. The human voice dominates the cacophonous merry-go-round of Wash the Day, the demonic singalong Let the Devil In, and, of course, A Method (a song of a-cappella Beach Boys-esque multi-part harmonies). But the real strokes of (vocal) genius are chaotic creations such as Playhouses (acid harmonies drenched in rhythmic neurosis) and I Was A Lover (sung in a Prince-esque falsetto). The rock epos surfaces rarely: mainly in Wolf Like Me, a fibrillating boogie with a defiant melodic approach reminiscent of the New York Dolls, and the gargantuan rhythm'n'blues Blues From Down Here. Despite all the (stylistic) furor, the band remains surprisingly close to the classic format of the rock song, a self-evident fact in the catchy soul ballad Province, another falsetto-driven number, or the emphatic glam ballad Dirty Whirlwind. TV On The Radio found a way to make vocals and guitars relevant again in the age of chamber, electronic and digital arrangements.

Multi-instrumentalist David Sitek produced the debut EP, In The Bronze Age (Postfact, 2007), of dance-punk outfit Dawn Of Man, fronted by the savage vocals of Alison Russell and scarred by the dissonant guitar of Brian Clancy.

Dear Science (Interscope, 2008) presents Tv On The Radio in their most postmodernist vein. Halfway Home begins with a brief tribute to the Ramones, although the song itself is a gentle lullaby sung over tribal syncopated beat and symphonic guitar distortions. Crying is a languid funky-soul ballad in a Prince-ian falsetto with even a horn fanfare. The mutation of Dancing Choose from aggressive rap to catchy nonsensical ditty culminates in a menacing crescendo led by the two saxes. Stork & Owl continues (and, in a sense, completes) the stylistic exploration by venturing into the realm of the easy-listening balladry with a string quartet.
The arrangements are denser than ever. Horns, string quartet, congas and synthesizer decorate the fibrillating rhythm'n'blues of Golden Age. Horns, congas and organ propel the hyper-sincopated funk music of Red Dress. Saxophones, flutes, string quartet, orchestral synthesizer and electronic beat populate the otherwise tedious Love Dog. A mist of flutes and horns and female backing vocals envelops Adebimpe's emotional crescendo in DLZ.
The band has refined its technique of not only layering ideas but also of making them evolve in an almost organic, biological manner. Family Tree slowly acquires its full shape of lyrical lullaby while a string quartet draws increasingly intricate lines in the air. Shout Me Out transitions, a bit haphazardly, from an R.E.M.-style meditation to a delirious instrumental bacchanal (probably the best thing on the album but, alas, faded out after less than a minute).
As it is fitting to an attempt to sell Tv On The Radio's erudite art to the masses, the most prominent instrument is now Tunde Adebimpe's voice. Each song can be said to be a different arrangement for his vocals.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia D'Onofrio)

The Wrong Way mescola ritmica pesante, fiati trascinanti e un cantato blues alla Captain Beefheart finchč pian piano non fonde il tutto in un jump-blues dalla cadenza isterica alla Rip Rig & Panic. Poppy improvvisa un’improbabile fusione di armonie doo-wop e chitarra shoegaze. Don’t Love You intesse un raga psichedelico su un drone d’organo distorto, una marziale ritmica mediorientale e impazienti note di chitarra. Wear You Out chiude l’album con un ipnotico crescendo di percussioni sciamaniche, un languido crooning soul e fiati jazz.

Pochissimi musicisti hanno osato attraversare un territorio tanto vasto nello spazio di un solo album o di un’unica carriera; tanto sconfinato da comprendere, da un lato, la fratturata elegia industriale di King Eternal, e dall’altro le armonie vocali a-cappella di Ambulance.


L’improbabile unione di doo-wop, shoegaze e atmosfere digitali, trasforma Return To Cookie Mountain (4AD, 2006) in un festino sonico ancor piů tormentato. La voce umana domina la giostra cacofonica di Wash the Day, come anche il coro demoniaco Let the Devil In, e, ovviamente, A Method (una canzone di armonie multiple a-cappella alla Beach Boys). Ma i veri colpi di genio (vocale) sono creazioni caotiche come Playhouses (armonie acide affogate in una nevrosi ritmica) e I Was A Lover (cantata in falsetto alla Prince). L’epica rock affiora di rado: principalmente in Wolf Like Me , un boogie fibrillante con un approccio melodico spavaldo reminiscente dei New York Dolls, e nel mastodontico rhythm’n’blues Blues From Down Here. A dispetto dello scalpore suscitato dallo stile, il gruppo rimane sorprendentemente fedele al classico format della canzone rock, come si evidenzia nell’orecchiabile ballata soul Province, un altro pezzo guidato dal falsetto, o nell’energica ballata glam Dirty Whirlwind. Nell’era degli arrangiamenti da camera, elettronici e digitali, i TV On The Radio hanno trovato un modo per riportare in primo piano il cantato e le chitarre.


Il polistrumentista David Sitek ha prodotto In The Bronze Age (Postfact, 2007), l’EP di debutto della formazione dance-punk Dawn Of Man, guidata dal cantato selvaggio di Alison Russel e sfregiata dalla chitarra dissonante di Brian Clancy.


Dear Science (Interscope, 2008) presenta i Tv On The Radio nella loro vena piů postmoderna. Halfway Home parte con un breve tributo ai Ramones, nonostante il pezzo consista in una docile ninna nanna su sincopati beats tribali e sinfoniche distorsioni di chitarra. Crying č una languida ballata funky-soul con falsetto alla Prince e persino una fanfara di fiati. La mutazione di Dancing Choose da rap aggressivo a orecchiabile canzoncina sensa senso culmina in un minaccioso crescendo trainato da due sassofoni. Stork & Owl continua (e in un certo senso completa) l’esplorazione stilistica, avventurandosi nel regno delle ballate easy-listening con un quartetto d’archi. Gli arrangiamenti sono piů densi che mai. Fiati, quartetto d’archi, congas e sintetizzatore decorano il fibrillante rhythm’n’blues di Golden Age. Fiati, congas e organo spingono la musica funky iper-sincopata di Red Dress. Sassofoni, flauti, quartetto d’archi, synth orchestrale e beat elettronico riempiono l’altrimenti tediosa Love Dog. Una foschia di flauto, trombe e controcanti femminili sigilla il crescendo emozionale di Adebimpe in DLZ. Il gruppo ha raffinato la tecnica non soltanto nel modo in cui riesce a “stratificare” le idee, ma anche nel modo in cui le fa evolvere organicamente, in maniera del tutto fluida e naturale. Family Tree raggiunge la sua piena forma di lirica ninna nanna, mentre un quartetto d’archi disegna nell’aria linee sempre piů intricate. Shout Me Out transita, un po’ casualmente, da meditazione in stile R.E.M. a delirante baccanale di strumenti (probabilmente il miglior momento dell’album, anche se, ahimč, si dissolve in meno di un minuto).

Come si confŕ ad un tentativo di vendere alle masse l’arte erudita dei TV On The Radio, lo strumento prominente č ormai la voce di Tunde Adebimpe. Si puň dire che ogni canzone sia un diverso arrangiamento per il suo cantato.

The mood and tone of Nine Types of Light (Interscope, 2011) is well summarized at the beginning by Second Song, a tuneful albeit unassuming nonchalant lied that slips into a lively soul falsetto. Tunde Adebimpe's simple but agonizing phrasing pens shapeless songs like Keep Your Heart and the lushly orchestrated floating pastoral hymn Killer Crane. The music frequently loses its focus and wanders aimlessly into styles that, by the standards of the early albums, feel incoherent: Forgotten evokes mellotron-era elegies of the Moody Blues, Will Do a tribute to classic trip-hop and No Future Shock synth-pop of the 1980s. The winners are masterful works of contrast: Repetition (electronic bass pulsation, neurotic rigmarole, soaring refrain, punkish declamation), Caffeinated Consciousness (that indulges in explosive funk-metal but with a dreamy REM-like refrain) and New Cannonball Blues: fat synth, rap-soul singing, industrial beat, funk syncopation. Everything is wrapped into a lazy, light-weight atmosphere.

TV On The Radio's bassist Gerard Smith died in 2011 of lung cancer at the age of 34.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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