For those of you who remember high school geometry (or are unlucky enough to be taking it right now) a radius is any line segment from the center of a circle to its perimeter. Otherwise if you’re studying orthopedics in medical school the radius is a long bone in your forearm which is slightly curved longitudinally. Despite having two completely separate meanings they do have a relationship to the inner mind’s eye – you can visualize both as “branching out” from a point of origin and extending across an indeterminate length until they reach their target. It’s not hard to imagine that Ramon Norwood chose the moniker Radius for either of these reasons – perhaps both. In the bio that came with “Neighborhood Suicide” the artist definitely seems hellbent on branching out from his current surroundings.
“Neighborhood Suicide started in late 2006 and early 2007, the winter season. I was tired of Chicago, but only because I felt I couldn’t make anything work out here. I needed fresh air. I started working on a project that I felt reflected the way I was feeling – down and out but happy, free and expressive too, like I knew that if I could be heard I would feel better and I felt I would/could have people that would support my sound.”
Not only does Norwood’s name seem apt, his choice of Invisible Superstars Vol. 001.” To date my experience from their projects is that they are not a “beats to the rhyme, the rhyme I just made” kind of clique – they are a “beats to the beats” crew. They specialize in ambient, trance, new age sounds that draw from hip-hop influences in terms of drumlines, sampling and beat creation but take it in an entirely new direction. An entirely new direction – like a line extending outward from the center point of a circle. A radius can go in any direction – a full 360 degrees of movement.
One can at times be tempted to try and pin down Radius to a specific sound. “L.S.D. (Interlude)” is a short but very hypnotic bassline that sounds like the backdrop for a spoken word klatch. “Uptown (Awaken)” is much more traditionally hip-hop, with a finger snapping rhythm containing sizzling hi-hat, turntable reversals, and a simplified melody that points and counterpoints two themes in a pleasant way while the bass tries to sneak in the mix and get some. Neither one relates in any way to “Englewood (Necessarygrowth),” which starts out with a rather stark excerpt of a news transmission or courtroom hearing, then unwinds a mid-tempo melody which floats on a summer breeze, whistling and winding over beats that intentionally double up and backtrack.
The harder you try to ascertain where Radius is coming from the less obvious it is that he’s coming from “anywhere” at all, which I suspect most listeners will be perfectly content with. Each track on “Neighborhood Suicide” is well produced and despite the bleak title there’s nothing depressing about the instrumentals presented on this album. I suspect the truth of the matter is that as much as Ramon Norwood felt stifled by Chicago it’s what drives the diversity of the presentation on this CD – a city with an eclectic music scene that ranges from jazz to house to hip-hop to rock and more. Norwood weaves these influences together and goes off on his own shit, and while you may not know his destination it doesn’t hurt to drop by his “Neighborhood” and go along for the sonic ride.