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This Is Radio Silence - Fallen Men

It appears This Is Radio Silence have been operating under the radar for quite some time. Revolving around Ben McLees the group has gone through various line-ups. The current incarnation of This Is Radio Silence additionally features Hunter Barr (AntiValium, Oblivion Guest and formerly KnifeLadder) and Austin Davey. You may already be aware of Ben McLees due to his involvement in both the post-rock classical ambience of SonVer and the angular dark sounds of Naevus but this is his own project that tends towards a more alternative sound. Even though two of these tracks first appeared in less arranged instrumental forms on Hunter Barr's solo electronic project Oblivion Guest it's hard to recognise them as the music of This Is Radio Silence although rooted in alternative electronic rock takes in elements of shoegaze and post-punk given an accessible veneer courtesy of Ben McLees' melodic voice and a glistening production that transforms all these disparate elements into something bigger than the sum of its parts. Fallen Men is definitely an intricate and varied EP from this alternative outfit.

'Fallen Men' moves to a series of wavering synths embellished with a melodic pop element where Ben McLees' emotive voice basks in sympathetic forlorn synths as it opens up into passages of surging synths and sequences sprinkled with lush shoegazey guitar ripples. Its lyrical construct could easily be regarded as a dismissal of the current political climes especially when McLees sings of "citizens of nowhere" and "it's pointless to pretend this is progress...the direction we're forced to accept isn't one we'd chosen". The title track is powerful and emotive, a heartfelt paean to lost dreams wrapped up in expansive melodic dark electronic layers.

Soft synths and electro sequences glide into the darkly melodic vocals and dark synth-pop of 'Empty Mirrors'. Despite those synth-pop tendencies, there's an undeniable NIN influence to 'Empty Mirrors' but for a while at least this is smoother and more electro based. The entire Fallen Men album is filled with intricate arrangements carrying an undertow of industrial ambience and synthy soundtrack flair. You can hear it in on 'Empty Mirrors' with its lurking sympathetic synths and pulsing, stabbing electronics. It doesn't take too long before it moves up a level either, with a sustained wave of guitar drone, increasing the intensity, pitching the anguished vocals singing of despondency, disconnection and denial through through treatments before drifting off in a blur of industrial atmospherics.

Yet the above songs on Fallen Men are filled with quieter interludes and subtle sounds which This Is Radio Silence expand upon on some of the following tracks amply proving their versatility illustrating the other influences that seep into their sound. 'We Know It's Over' is my favourite track on Fallen Men. From sombre synth ambience and electro sequences, in hushed murmurs McLees elucidates on the title over shimmering guitar tones and electronic rhythms. Slipping seamlessly into a passage of atmospheric ambience and then near silence it returns weaving intricate acoustic guitar patterns amidst the mellow synths and downbeat electronics. "We know it's over, there are no stars in the sky tonight," McLees' sings breathlessly with a poignancy capturing the inherent sadness within the music as it trails off in tones. Graceful and subtle, 'We Know It's Over' is a great track transforming the source material that Oblivion Guest took into a space age journey, into something more personal, more introspective and contemplative.

The sound elements lurking below the surface of the previous tracks of Fallen Men are emphasised on 'As Below, So Above'. Devoid of a song based structure it unfurls to nebulous remnants of music and submerged voices within rippling industrial atmospherics and waves of guitar movements. This is This Is Radio Silence at their most experimental illustrating the groups versatility. It's clear This Is Radio Silence aren't afraid to move out of their comfort zone, and they do it again on 'Unsound', the final track, which bounds along to surprising choppy, scraped post-punk guitar mannerisms and dynamic clipped rhythms as it drives forwards spouting lines about self loathing and hate. It's not as straightforward as it sounds either since it's combined with atmospheric keyboards and a neat snaking wayward guitar lead. In keeping with true punk fashion it lasts a mere 3 minutes or so cutting out to experimental textures.

Fallen Men is a varied, focussed and impressive EP featuring radical reworkings of two tracks that we covered in our review of Oblivion Guest's The Light in the Black Hole, soundtracking a dance performance. Sure some of the earlier song based tracks on Fallen Men veer too close to industrial rock to be on frequent rotation for me but I can certainly appreciate the dark pop sensibility strapped to the electronic arrangements. Things really get good for me on the later tracks ranging from the solemn downbeat gracefulness of 'We Know It's Over' through the industrial atmospherics of 'As Below, So Above' to the direct bombast of 'Unsound'. This Is Radio Silence are a group that should be much better known and Fallen Men is vindication of that. It's well worth a listen. Fallen Men is available from Disconnected Music bandcamp and other digital services.