All India Radio isn’t the India broadcasting Network. It’s not even from India. It’s the name assumed by Australian Martin Kennedy to extoll a trippy, Americana tinged brand of ambient rock. Taking cues from Brian Eno, Harold Budd, the KLF and Ry Cooder, All India Radio has been creating an enveloping distinctive and melodic brand of ambient music for all of this millennium.
Kennedy is a child of 80’s new wave music, moving into shoegaze. He even played in a band called Pray TV that made some great albums in a post-Joy Division vein. When that band fell apart, Kennedy went back to his earlier roots: Pink Floyd, Brian Eno and an electronic chillout band called the KLF. With those influences, Kennedy has released over ten All India Radio albums plus remixes, mostly instrumental with a few wonderful electronica inspired vocal albums including The Fall with singer Leona Prue. It was reissued with remixes a couple of years ago.
All India Radio “Dark Star”
The Slow Light is a somewhat dark and contemplative album, taking its name and all its titles from aspects of interstellar light. Slow light is an actual phenomenon where the speed of light is slows down. The album feels more cinematic than spacey, however. It’s full of swirling electronic textures and doomy rhythms on tracks like “Dark Star” which reminds me of John Carpenter’s groove to “Assault on Precinct 13”. You can hear that influence again on the sequencer driven “Time,” as Martin frees himself from gravity and launches into space complete with stuttered vocal-like effects and “Telstar” guitar.
It is guitar that’s at the heart of it all. Kennedy’s electric guitar playing shows the influences of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour as well as Ry Cooder. For all the space references, there is an ambient Americana feel to much of All India Radio’s music. Even the title track seems like it’s soundtracking a spaceship, but one cruising over the landscapes of the desert southwest.
All India Radio “Redshift”
“Redshift,” like the track “Blueshift” takes its name from a shift in the light spectrum. For All India Radio, it’s more like a shift between resigned and heroic determination. Against a throbbing bassline and phase shifted synth-strings pads “Redshift” moves relentless with Kennedy’s guitar alternately laying down almost Hawaiian tinged accents and noirish “Peter Gunn” shadows.
There are a couple of vocal tracks on the album, featuring Selena Cross on “Can You Hear the Sound” and Kennedy’s 12 year old daughter, Hollie Houlihan-McKie on the helium suffused “Galaxy of Light.”
Martin is a master of mood and texture. There’s nothing clichéd in his compositions. It all sounds hand-crafted and elegantly carved. He’s made far too many wonderful albums to call this one his best, but you might have to. All India Radio’s The Slow Light will do a slow burn into your soul.
All India Radio “Time”