Following the modest critical and commercial success of their previous release, 2013’s “Woman”, Rhye’s sophomore release, with oddly appropriate ennui, drifted through an unusually prolonged gestation period. Although their developments in listening practices have facilitated the blossoming of “Woman” into a cult hit amongst YouTube-trawling musos, the past 5 years also fractured Rhye’s original lineup, with instrumentalist Robin Hannibal departing from the increasingly amorphous project.
However, the fact that Rhye now consists only of monikered mononym Milosh and a well-oiled live band would be completely unnoticeable if listening solely to the music. The template of slippery, sleekly brass neo-soul and monochrome tastefulness previously established by the group is largely adhered to here, with the supple androgyny of Milosh’s vocals recalling Daniel and the Johnsons and the subtle arrangements framing them with unobtrusive delicacy. “Feel Your Weight” is light, airy funk topped off admirably by the woodsy softness of Milosh’s voice, cresting into warm, imposing chords as the song slides towards its conclusion. The up-tempo (by Rhye’s standards) “Count to Five” gently recalls Mark Ronson’s “Daffodils”, although the finely-tuned grooves of “Phoenix” slightly outmatch it at the same game.
As with “Woman”, the central flaw of “Blood” is ironically its consistency, a stylistic intransigence that at first seems focused, but which feels increasingly obstinate as the album rolls on. At its worst, “Blood” is just glossily impenetrable, vaguely soulful background hum of the kind that occasionally drifts into earshot in lifts and submerges shopping centre forecourts. However, at its finest it transcends its incidental lyrics, its repetitive arrangements and its stubborn sameness to acquire a surprising poignancy. “Song For You”, which was rightly issued as a single, is gifted with a melody so richly pretty that it imbues its stock lyrical phrases with a cracked-open vulnerability and desperate tenderness: “I feel your heart, baby/I feel your pain”. The song is also enriched by a rare discursion from Rhye’s musical template, the see-sawing strings that flit in and out of the song drawing out a tightly-wound, unfurling beauty.
For all the behind-the-scenes turbulence that has engulfed Rhye from time to time over the previous 5 years, the ultimate irony is that on “Blood” they simply emerge from it sounding more like themselves than ever. Rather than musically evolving over the past-half decade, the band have sealed themselves in aspic, starkly reaffirming their musical philosophy rather than ripping it up and starting over, as might have been necessitated by their internal circumstances and the changing currents of pop culture. Although it would be easy to loose a salvo of criticisms at such a mentality, the truth is the “Blood” is simply an album too pretty to truly dislike, garnering disapproving tuts at best. CO
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlDSG8gEuxo