Radiac is a protest album, a retaliation against the Williamsburg and New York City radioactive storage sight Radiac. The album inserts include articles on both a local oil spill within the area and the lax security measures that Radiac has in place while housing such toxic chemicals as formaldehyde and bromoacetone. And so the noise and titles on Bloater’s first release are meant as vocalizations of their own outrage at the allowance of such dangerous pollution to the citizens of NYC.
Bloater features a guitarist and an electronics manipulator, with both collaborating on tracks to provide a brooding sense of atmosphere and noise. But strangely, Radiac isn’t an assault, and if the industrial noise was meant as an ironic pollution of sound, it’s not readily apparent to the listener.
Radiac is more about droning, but the first two cuts from this disc, “Theme from RADIAC” and “Enjoy Your Purchases,” respectively, are little more than irritating guitar noodling. Ken B on electronics seems to have little to do on these tracks, simply allowing the hum of electrified amplifiers to do much of the work while Steve Smith wails away on his guitar with whatever discordant chord progressions and scrapings come to mind. These tracks are unfocused, schizophrenic and uninteresting. They lack refinement, and I thought that if this was the theme from Radiac, I might be heading into territory I’d rather not delve into.
But the last three tracks on Radiac find some better footing, limiting the spontaneity of the guitar work and incorporating a more balanced atmosphere of droning electronics with subtle chord stabs. Bloater still manages to work in some of its manic ideas, but they fit much better within the soundscapes Ken B creates, adding to the more industrial atmosphere rather than just feeling like tomfoolery.
Yet there’s something missing from Radiac. As a protest soundtrack, it’s lacking the passion or drive expected from someone who feels strongly about the company. And as a drone piece, the finesse of the pieces – the subtle flares, the evocation of denseness – is also not there. Unfortunately, Radiac isn’t as bloated with sound as its artist moniker indicates.