Upsilon Acrux – Radian Futura

A very cool cover

Upsilon Acrux - Radian Futura

Radian Futura, the newest LP by Progressive/Zouk/Ghettotech visionaries Upsilon Acrux, is an album of duality. It ranks among the most complicated arrangements and skillful performances I’ve heard this decade, and the sounds encased are fascinating and varied. But that is also its fatal flaw; it is really nothing more than fifty minutes of rapidly shifting outbursts. I would love to see these guys play live, though, so that must mean something.

Currently, Los Angeles houses this quintet which formed in San Diego. While influences like King Crimson and Frank Zappa are quite evident, this album instantly reminded me of Captain Beefheart. In both cases, the music (to the untrained ear) is just spastic randomness with no focus. On the contrary, it’s quite rehearsed and perfectly executed. It’s been said that Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica is a work of genius that you could never sit through entirely. As both a compliment and condemnation, I must declare that Radian Futura is the same.

As with a lot of music I’ve heard recently, breaking down this album into tracks is useless. It all flows like one big collage of hyperactivity and you’ll never know when a technically “new” track begins because it all kind of sounds the same. If it were a record, you could put the needle down anywhere and wind up with 99% of the same music. However, what you’ll hear are five expert musicians recalling the musical jigsaw puzzles of their forefathers, and for at least a couple minutes, you’ll be in awe of what you’re hearing. After those first few minutes, things get redundant. There are no melodies and no real dynamics to speak of. It’s like a relentless jam that’s undeniably mind blowing at first but eventually just becomes annoying.

Like similar act Bad Dudes, Upsilon Acrux, while no doubt dedicated to their craft, also don’t take themselves too seriously, which is refreshing. The opening track is humorously titled “In-A-Gotta-Devito,” and with follow ups like “Keeping Rice Evil” and “The Infinitesimal Fractions Of Ping & Pong,” it’s clear that these guys have a sense of humor about the pretentions of what their doing. Also, the front cover is really cool.

Think of Radian Futura as what would happen if The Mars Volta focused solely on their most complex sections and forgot about their songwriting, slow parts or real hooks. I adore technique in the music I hear, but there also must be something to grab onto as you listen. There are about a thousand riffs and rhythms here, which is quite commendable in an industry of commerciality and simplicity. However, for their next release, Upsilon Acrux should slow things down a bit and pick only a fraction of these elements, and then build accompaniments around them. Give us a drum beat that lasts longer than ten seconds or a riff that extends past four measures and we’ll have something keeping glued to the album. As it stands, Radian Futura is an objective marvel of musicianship, ideas and execution, but subjectively it’s hard to stay onboard past the first couple tracks before moving on to something else.