Lake R▲dio – Dream House (2012)

Sophomore LP of witch house producer Lake R▲dio, Dream House.

Lake R▲dio is a bit of a mysterious guy. Ok, he’s not that mysterious, he has pages on most of the major social networks (he’s following me on both Twitter and Tumblr, which is pretty cool) but searching for musings on his work online yields very little. Despite 3 previous EP’s and an LP 2 years ago, and 20,000 listeners on, it appears his latest full length has slipped under the radar.

Perhaps this has something to do with the stigma associated with the so-called “witch house” genre. The growth of chillwave in 2009 showed that underground artists working out of their bedrooms had the potential to create semi-decent music and deliver it to a broad audience. Unfortunately the general demeanor around witch house made it seem like a bit of a joke; artists, tracks and albums with names that looked like they’d been typed in Webdings, awful album art and generally poor production made it unappealing. Amongst the shit, however, there were a few class acts; oOoOO, Balam Acab, Salem and Lake R▲dio amongst the better and best known. Even though it has not yet died a death, the quality has significantly improved.

As you can imagine, Dream House is rooted in dreams. Many of the vocal elements here are airy and lo-fi, which is an interesting counterpoint to the fairly strong and powerful beat structure to the melodies. “Plastic Angels” opens this album with plenty of synth and a really strong techno vibe; there’s a lot of mainstream music underpinnings to the album as a whole. “Taking Pills That You Don’t Need” shows us that it LR is still rooted in witch house with its creepy vocoder and deep, shuffling bassline and zipping synth, while “Pisces Scattering” and “Waiting in Heaven” balance it out with buried, reverbed vocals, gently distressed samples and a dreamy-haze throughout. Weirdly, I’m reminded of Trust’s awful synth pop/darkwave album TRST that came out this year, except this is much better.

Samples remain prevalent throughout, reappearing again in “Rojo Naranja”, something that sounds like it was inspired by Boards of Canada with it’s almost illegible, childlike samples. Ethnic variance appears surprisingly on my personal favourite “Don’t Say No”; I feel like it shouldn’t work in context but it fits perfectly with the dream-weirdness of this album. Writhing synth, thudding bass and sitars(?) couple with completely non-sensical lyrics to make an oddly compelling listen. “Blonde Unblonde” feels again like LR has pulled inspiration from IDM artists, this time Aphex Twin. There’s a certain wavering quality to the electronics here, underpinned with determined techno melodies that reminds me very strongly of AFX’s work. Finally “Don’t Go” arrives to shepherd us out the door, again bringing a very downtempo synth pop sound to the fore alongside tambourines, soft pads and a plethora of unpinnable electronic sounds. The sample asks us “Please don’t go, baby please don’t go” during the final minutes; LR begging the listener to carry on even though it’s all over and we’re waking up from Dream House. 

It’s too long; 12 tracks and 53 minutes seems reasonable for an album but it doesn’t work here; whittle that down to 8 tracks and I’m there. This could be excellent if it just lost a few pounds. I like LR’s direction, his IDM/synth pop infusions keep this in a popular place in music at the moment and it has a wonderfully soft atmosphere throughout, kept interesting enough by determined percussion and basslines. That said it is slightly lacklustre in my opinion, there’s some emotional component absent here that I can’t quite place.