Radius and Helena Fangs

Radius and Helena Fangs
8
Delivering on the promise of their debut, Toronto, ON art rock outfit Radius & Helena are back with the first part of an epic two-album cycle. Their Blonde Redhead-influenced progressive space rock has evolved to incorporate a much wider palette of sounds. Opener "The Astronaut" serves as the ignition sequence; it's a slow-burning, sleepy Southern shuffle boiling its way to an explosive burst of shimmering guitars, silken vocal harmonies, cranium-vibrating bass, nebulous, purring synth and crashing drums. Though the album feels thematically united, no two songs share many similarities, other than the rich, Thom Yorke-esque vocal interplay between co-leads Ryan Fairley and Christopher Felske, and the ever-mutating patterns of Steve Kwok's walloping stick work. "Anne 5" is such a frantic slab of angular rock that it could be mistaken for Tera Melos, while "Mexican Wrestlers" is the showstopper, perfectly expressing the blend of primitivism and futurism at the pulsing core of Fangs. As the album creeps deliberately forward, the seething menace of "Science Fiction" gives way to the calm, introspective "What Gets in the Way of Trust" and the groovy, sultry "The Wizard of Linn" before turning a corner for the bombastic rock of "No Combat," the hazy tropical swagger of "Blood Magic" and the ominous whimsy of the Beatles-y "Luck Against the Clock." The homestretch nods to the group's love of videogames, with the crushing, unhinged "Last Dungeon," before sinking into the spacey tribalism of the nearly 13-minute closing title track. Through it all runs a lyrical theme exploring the dark recesses of the human heart and the animalistic id we take great pains to mask publicly. Dense yet spacious, pessimistic but hopeful, Fangs is one of the year's best, presenting the contradictions of the human condition in diverse, highly cinematic song form. (Independent)