This is the first ever release for the new Editions Mego imprint curated by Emeralds' John Elliott and it is an extremely auspicious start. Fabric is the guise of Chicago's Matthew Mullane and this is his first major release under that moniker, though he has previously surfaced on a number of limited releases as both Fabric and his own name. He describes himself primarily as a guitarist and “computerist,” however A Form of Radiance is a wonderfully spacey, endlessly pulsing bedroom synth epic...that may or may not have been created using actual synthesizers. Mullane's methods are inscrutable.
I think it might be impossible to describe this album without using words like "futuristic" (or better yet, "retro-futurist"), as this is the sort of music that sounds like it belongs in the worlds depicted in films like Blade Runner or Terminator. It doesn't sound like it belongs in the actual films though, nor does it resemble either existing soundtrack. It's more like an imaginary soundtrack to an altogether artier, more melancholy, and subtly psychedelic work. Mullane has clearly been influenced by the warm pads, thick throbs, and sequencer-heavy arpeggios of '80s synth music and Kosmische titans like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, but A Sort of Radiance has a density, complexity, and experimental streak that is very contemporary. In fact, Fabric fits very nicely into the pantheon of newer synthesizer luminaries like Emeralds, though his work is a bit more understated and meditative. It is also pretty brilliantly executed: while all of the pieces are essentially built upon lush swells of slowly unfolding chord progressions, there is an enormous amount of vibrant activity surrounding them. Pieces like "High Ceilings" and "Light Float" burble, quaver, swoop, and shimmer to a transfixing degree.
The entire album is surprisingly varied and imaginative, especially given that all nine songs have very similar textures and timbres. Also, it is pretty short, as four of the songs are under two minutes. The briefer pieces aren't filler though, as "Controls" is actually one of my favorite pieces on the album. Mullane displays an impressive intuitive understanding of exactly how long an idea can unfold before wearing out its welcome: if a piece like "Light Float" is hypnotic and immersive enough to unfold for 8 minutes, it does. Conversely, if a fragile interlude like "Containers" says everything it needs to say in a minute, it ends there. Matthew also has an impressive talent for mood and subtlety, allowing just enough melody to give the songs color and personality, but never being blunt enough to disrupt the lazily warm and hallucinatory flow of the album.
I did not expect to like this nearly as much as I do, as I generally find albums this unapologetically synthesizer-heavy to be very limited and often quite masturbatory. A Sort of Radiance is, quite happily, neither of those things. This is a thoroughly impressive and mesmerizing debut.
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