UK band RAD ORCHESTRA have been developing their music for a good few years by now, at least from 2012 from what I can see on social media, and appears to have spent that time really well in terms of creating material and finding their own niche in the music business. “Rad Orchestra” is the name of their debut album, which was released in the late fall season of 2018 by Labelship Records.
The genre world music is one that have been tossed around for a good few years by now, and is a genre with a fair share of variety to it. In essence, one might say that it covers artists that incorporate non-western style elements into their music, and then usually in a folk-oriented musical context at that. Rad Orchestra fits smugly into that description, and do add a few bells and whistles to the proceedings as well.
This isn’t a band merely out to flavor their material with exotic sounds. Instead, this is a band that appears to find great joy in mixing in multiple style variations into their material. The songs will more often than not have something of a pop/rock oriented drive to them, without taking in or taking on too much of a pop music sensibility. At least not one with a western orientation.
But while the drive is one that will find favor among those with a taste for mainstream oriented music, the themes, arrangements and various instrument details is a smorgasbord in flavors and spices from all over the world. Some funky details here, mournful Celtic music there, textures with more of an Eastern feel slots right in, while the percussionists strikes me as being very knowledgeable about African folk and popular music, and occasionally the guitarist, bassist and singers will add in some African touches as well. Vocals with more of a soul-oriented orientation have their place too, and the occasional nod to the good old blues is present as well. And, as an odd one off, a short and sweet creation closer to traditional US country music sneaks in towards the end too. Those with a greater knowledge than me about world music can probably add a paragraph or too to this overview too. But the point is that this album is an amalgam of numerous different traits, more often than not explored and executed as a mix rather than as separate style variations. In addition, it merits a mention that violins and the viola are the dominant instruments throughout, and that these instruments are used in traditional as well as creative and expressive manners.
In terms of mood and atmospheres the variation is as great as the number of stylistic ingredients too, but most of the compositions are in the energetic and uplifting department. More often one or the other of those though, and very often with a playful spirit to boot. On a few occasions the band will enter darker waters as well though, the haunting Bramble a case in point as far as that is concerned.
Rad Orchestra have made themselves a high quality debut album, where the compositions are well developed and well performed, the mix and production is clear and balanced, and the total album experience is an invigorating one. Not quite at the level that will see them entering mainstream music charts yet in my personal opinion, but those with a general interest in world music and a particular fancy for creative and expressive artists in that field should find plenty of material to enjoy on this fine album.
My rating: 78/100