Star FK Radium | Blue Siberia
Album review by John Powell
Washington D.C. may be home to Star FK Radium, but the trio’s album Blue Siberia elicits fairytale Otherworldlyness, part lullaby and part desert wasteland, (hence the title). For only three acoustic instruments, Bill Martien (guitar), Matt Clarke (drums), and Alissa Taylor (violin) fill the space with contemplative music that may never venture into outrageously uncharted territory, but one fact remains: their music is beautiful.
Totally inoffensive, Blue Siberia is something for both Grandma and the freshman in college searching for the indie thing to listen to. This is because Grandma doesn’t have to know it’s categorized as trip hop and the eager student doesn’t have to know how far that genre name can stretch.
The title track is a great example, swishing like a paintbrush, each instrument delicate, creating a mood. The guitar is usually fingerpicked. The violin slow and simple. The drums, if anything, are the force that starts the wheels going, using complex rhythms and never stoic.
Many of the songs have both a dark and foreboding, as well as peaceful and serene airs to them, minor keys blooming out into celebratory jams- although “jam” might not be the best word. The songs are five minutes at most. “Karamara” is just lovely, strummed guitar creating the folky ambiance while the snare rolls break the consistence and violin acts like the animal kingdom, both the butterfly and the moth.
A key track is “Snow Angel”, beginning with tight guitar picking. Bill has a creative and classical way of playing bass notes on top of his other work, keeping time but also adding a sound that isn’t present as its own instrument. Matt gets a little drum solo- really a long fill, but his work on this track fills in the space excellently.
Likely the song titles are reflected in the music. “Josie’s Porch Swing” and “Chasing the Sun” sound like they were things that actually happened and deserve songs about them, but for the casual listeners the connections aren’t always clear, except for maybe “Snow Angel”, being wintry and blustery, and the album closer, “The Clearing”, with guitar like a harp and the song brief like a cleansing.
“Speedbike” might also reflect the sound, at a fast tempo and sounding more “acoustic post rock” than anything else. Super fun, the song shows off Bill’s wide talents and he and Matt seem to be having a ton of fun breaking out some heavy stuff. Alissa doesn’t show up here, which is fine, I guess, as she’s loftily present throughout the album and deserves a break. Also, when she finally comes in on “Josie’s Porch Swing” it adds a nice touch to not have heard her for three minutes.
The sum is better than its parts on Blue Siberia, an album’s worth of feeling and vibe, for rainy days or sunny days, whichever as long as you’re quiet and thoughtful. How do you think a guitar, violin, and drums would sound playing this kind of music? Well, that’s exactly what Star FK Radium sounds like, which just so happens to be a very nice sounding kind of music.
Bottom line: Acoustic trip hop trio makes pretty music that sets a mood and keeps it hovering.