As dire and desperate as the world—at large and here in Baltimore—is becoming, everyday physical suffering is under-discussed. My eyes don’t feel like they’re going to bleed. They want to bleed. One eyelid per eyeball is no longer enough, unfortunately. Black curtains and white noise machines are slightly healthier insomnia aids than pills and supplements, but they’re all still dead and one-dimensional. When I lived behind an art gallery and a parking lot for three years, I fell asleep to everything Grouper ever released, from beginning to end: I’d start trying to think about going to sleep in half an hour when Way Their Crept started, and wake up during the field recording of the rainstorm provided with certain editions of Ruins, one of her many masterpieces.
I no longer live among ghosts, or against a cement wall, so I can’t play music all night long to sleep. My turntable broke over a year ago and I still haven’t gotten it fixed (I recommend selling records to the Sound Garden in Fells Point). I listen to my own music; and “Games” by Hüsker Dü, “For Your Eyes Only” by Sheena Easton; “Every Which Way But Loose” by Eddie Rabbitt, “One Day Since Yesterday” by Colleen Camp, “I’m Coming Up Your Ass” by Whitehouse, and “Cool It Down” by New Edition. I can’t be bothered to check out new solo albums by musicians from bands I ate and slept as a teenager, and it doesn’t feel that bad. So I’m glad Danny Greenwald sent me Radial, his new album with Sam Haberman, to write about when I had coronavirus during the first week of February.
Danny scored my first feature film, Hasn’t Been Grounded, and when he asked what I wanted, I told him to give me a Glassine record. I knew he could interpret the movie musically, because as affable and charming Danny is in person, his work is a river running deep, with an alien atmosphere that feels both impossibly distant and totally modern. My movie’s about a missile engineer for the American government going insane, and the sarcastic paranoia and technical complexity of Danny’s work was a perfect fit. Glassine records before Radial made me think of large glass structures, all in straight lines overlapping, a kind of infinite clarity. Radial is even more dense, an occupied world rather than the ruins and skeletons of his (in my opinion, wonderful) score for Hasn’t Been Grounded. But it’s a world occupied by mannequins, not even ghosts, playgrounds full of plastic children and atriums full of plastic furniture that will outlive us all.
There are the loud cries of a young boy at the start of “Laura’s Place,” but this is a record of another world. “Grandma Phyllis” and closer “Behind a Seatbelt” are the closest you get to a real world reference point; for the former, how much it reminded me of the scores in Michael Mann movies, but then again I just saw Manhunter the other night and it’s still making me buzz. Radial ends with the low thrum of a series of flanged and phased-out guitar chords as they fade out, a rounded and dark coda to an album full of cloud-hopping and daydreaming clicks, tapping away to a new kind of cure. My eyes can bleed again.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith