Album Review: Rhye – Blood
As the crisp bedrock of drums rolled onwards for a good dozen seconds at the start of Rhye ’s second album, I had a wandering thought that it could go anywhere from there. But my fears were immediately banished with the soothing sounds of the synths against the combo of kick-drum & handclaps. It was exactly what you knew you wanted and I was exactly where I needed to be, mentally as well as physically, strolling around the darkness of the quiet streets.
You wouldn’t expect anything less of a Rhye album, with Milosh’s soft vocals soon joining the fray to further lull you into that relaxed chill mood you would associate with his music. On album opener ‘Waste’, you’re drawn into the sparseness – the sense of less is more is prominent with each added instrument niftily slotting into its allocated space without disturbing the harmony and mellow tempo. But Milosh quickly mixes things up when a dark, brooding & thoroughly pounding bass-line hits you in the face with the first notes of follow-up single, ‘Taste’. This bass-line is the sort to make you sit up or, in the case that you’re standing, slowly start swaying those shoulders side-to-side as you saunter down the street thanks to the with jangling guitar and soon-to-be trademarked plucked strings harmonising it all with a somewhat lighter touch.
The chilled-out-yet-funky vibe doesn’t stop there though, and groove – soft but in the sexiest way possible – creeps its way through the album. Alongside this comes a welcome injection of pace, cutting down on the downtime between songs helping Rhye effortlessly glide from one track to the next seamlessly. When the chorus kicks in on ‘Feel Your Weight’ the shakers come in strong, followed by the sweetest of bass licks all topped off with a blast of trumpets: if you’re not grooving, well frankly you’re not doing it right.
Permeating the album is a quality of restraint – a restrained control in which you’re begging every instrument to kick off, gather momentum and explode. Though this never happens, as a listener you are not left disappointed when they don’t, such is the harmonious blend of it all. Although at first you may want the song to continue for just that extra bit longer (the sign of something good, no?), after the briefest consideration it’s pretty clear that Rhye ceases everything at exactly the perfect moment, leaving you to admire how succinctly poised a carefully-constructed song can be.
Fourth track up on the album ‘Please’ had me humming the guitar riff to the Arctic Monkey’s hit ‘Do I Wanna Know’ over the opening drums before disarming me completely in the beautiful ballad it turned out to be, with a soft climax to top everything off. Before you have time to sigh – or maybe wipe your eyes – we’re back into the head-bobbing sway of things with single, ‘Count to Five’. The less-is-more feel is still present but more in a “more instruments”, “less spotlight” way as a single distorted hanging guitar chord is strummed to great effect on the bridge whilst the strings twirl and crescendo upwards. It’s no wonder ‘Count To Five’ was released as a single.
Milosh has this uncanny ability to ease into his lyrics with a gentle “ooooo”, perfectly mirroring the prolonged trumpet on “Song for You”, a song that epitomises Rhye’s bedroom feel as plucked viola meanders back into the fold. The softness of the vocals, the all-encompassing sound and the general feel might remind one of Cigarettes After Sex. Though, a CAS with more depth, substance, poise and variation (though, this album emphasises the side of their music maybe more akin to Quadron).
‘Blood Knows’ somewhat amps up the sound, simmering along to a light cacophony of noise reminiscent to that of Bon Iver. In fact, the Bon Iver references continue into ‘Stay Safe’, a track which manages to encapsulate everything mentioned previously, mixing all of the above elements: the balladry, the intertwining of many different sounds and instruments to an endearing chorus and melody.
But then comes the thunder. Like the sound of muffled Michael Jackson song from an underground club – dare I say it – ‘Pheonix’ rears its dirty bass-line out of the front door. The no-nonsense drumbeat provides the backbone, ticking along nicely before shakers glitter everything up and ramp up the groove an extra notch for the bridge. The bridge in mention kicks in with a bonus bass lick now and then before an outro, that would fit seamlessly onto any of Foals’ recent albums, closes things out with sultry guitar turning everything pretty sexy.
Rhye then slows things down for the penultimate track on Blood which sees the stunning ‘Softly’ pulsing along smoothly to piano keys. The 3 minute track comes to a halt with the cover-evoking closer, ‘Sinful’ before anyone can get comfortable.
With a repeating and somewhat urgently-tangy acoustic guitar riff & cymbal drumbeat making me half wish the album closed with an instrumental. ‘Sinful’ is such a welcome surprise seeing the album closing with a wholly different feel – it is less electronic and raw with Milosh’s voice floating above all else and just as finely-poised. The sense of urgency is wonderfully compounded by the exquisitely arranged strings that drift off into your mind’s ether to leave you with a sense of peaceful wonderment. If you’re a first time Rhye listener, you won’t be disappointed.
We’re big fans of Rhye at MCR Live and constantly have them on rotation – check out our playlists here! Updated weekly.