If you get a feeling of deja vu when you press play on The Radio Dept’s first album in six years, it is entirely understandable. The first track, Sloboda Narodu, uses the same sample as the Death to Fascism single the band pumped out for the 2014 Swedish election. The Serbo-Croat audio, meaning freedom to the people, is simultaneously as explicit and opaque as the band themselves can be.
The political edge that began with Freddie and the Trojan Horse back in 2008 and was repeated on Death to Fascism returns again on Running Out Of Love in the form of Swedish Guns – a reminder than squeaky clean Sweden makes money selling weapons to some very dubious countries – and whilst there is a continuity to Running Out Of Love, as it progresses we see a different band altogether emerge. Whilst Sloboda Narodu could have come from any of the band’s ethereal but clean middle-period records, Running Out of Love as a complete record is something quite unexpected. The Radio Dept appear to have made a deep house album.
Not only is there as much synth and sampling as there is guitar on the band’s comeback, overlaid with the familiar drum machine tracks that characterised even the band’s earlier more shoegaze-inspired material, there are deep beats aplenty. The Radio Dept have always had a tendency to sound like a soundtrack to something else, and much of the album is prime for 15-second documentary transitions on BBC Four, but by the time final track Teach Me To Forget comes along we are firmly in dance territory. The trance synths and the repetitive anthemic vocals are more reminiscent of Kleerup than of the low-fi fuzzy indie that made The Radio Dept cult names.
The most striking thing about a record six years in the making, though, is how incomplete it feels. The Radio Dept have never wowed, but rather floated in and out of the music scene and grown with each listen. In the case of Running Out Of Love, the record as a whole feels like an attempt to produce an album from what should have been an EP, halfway between a new sound and familiar ground without committing to either.
But then you can never judge The Radio Dept according to normal standards. They are a band so averse to critical and market thinking that they rarely play live shows and have been known to entirely ignore label requests to produce music, whilst at the same time recording a seemingly exponential number of tracks which fade into one another. Listening to The Radio Dept is not so much a question of taking in whole records as letting the peaks rise from the wave of background noise. The bigger their corpus of work becomes a multi-decade ambient project, and one that at times is seemingly not even intended for its listeners. It has been a long wait for Running Out Of Love, and the result is a band doing exactly what they have always done. Who are we to argue?