Radness Methods is the right album at the right time, although the confluence was unintentional. Kotra, a Ukrainian artist living in Berlin, recorded the album in 2021, and now it is being released in the middle of an invasion. Dmytro Fedorenko intended the music as an extension of ritual drumming, a tribute to “asphalt sorcerers and philosophical warriors,” but today it sounds like an expression of resistance, a standing of ground, a soundtrack to a physical conflict. Originally tagged “the ultimate sledgehammer dance,” the music now becomes pugilistic. Even the philosophers have laid down their books and taken up arms.
Perhaps it’s not fair to impose such projections on what is essentially an excellent industrial set. Kotra bleeds drops of Front Line Assembly and Front 242. But industrial music is meant to be bleak, a reflection of the factory floor, a call to arms, against fascism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The body is inspired to move, while the mind is prompted as well, pushed away from thoughts of peace to those of necessary conflict. After a lurking opener, Kotra wrenches into the distorted “Phase Transitions,” the lead single for good reason, eleven and a half minutes of uncompromising assault, a Molotov cocktail of music. The visceral power of such music can give a third wind to flagging soldiers, and one can imagine it blasting over the speakers of Kyiv to unnerve, disorient and terrify the Russian invaders. “Self-credence compression” is even tougher, tighter and faster, an acceleration of tempo and pulse.
While ritualistic drumming is associated with tribal dances, especially frenzied nights around a fire, it is also associated with war. The drums can be heard from a distance and are meant to intimidate enemies. In native Hawai’i, vestiges can still be seen in the team dances before sport matches, displays of virility, prowess and power. Kotra taps into this spirit here. The music is so muscular that one is afraid the speakers will pop like overstretched tendons. None of the tracks are short; each lasts as long as it desires, seeking to produce a dark ecstasy, a psychedelic effect without the hallucinogenic drugs, the listener lost in the groove. Kotra achieves this effect by the continual addition of new elements in tracks that can last over ten minutes, never content to rely on repetition for impact. Could this be the radness method?
As for the distortion, what isn’t distorted these days? Truth is distorted, borders are distorted, rights are distorted. As “The Discriminant of Consciousness” lifts to the red levels, one feels a political tinnitus, the idea that everything is too much and not enough, but that this volume is under our control. This is tamed noise, the type we can embrace.
While the album was not intended as a battle cry, it works as such, and we’re glad that it’s here, and angry, and now.