RedEye

Album review: Rhye, 'Woman'

3.5 stars (out of 4)

For the last year, Rhye made music under a cloak of anonymity. Who exactly was making this intoxicating sound? The airy, androgynous vocals led many listeners (and more than a few reviewers) to conclude that the lead singer was a woman.

In the last few weeks, the personalities behind Rhye have stepped forward: Canadian multi-instrumentalist Mike Milosh and Danish electro-soul artist Robin Hannibal. And, yes, Milosh’s vocals do occasionally echo that ‘80s paragon of coolly remote lounge-soul, Sade.

Rhye’s debut album, “Woman” (Innovative Leisure), is a beautifully sequenced song cycle of soul music with the flame turned low. It’s sexy, but not overheated. Sade had the ability to make sensuality sound cool, even a bit remote, as if she were trying to conceal the hurt from a love affair by limiting herself to a melancholy whisper. Milosh is more transparent, but he also keeps things at low volume, often rising to a delicate falsetto that blurs gender lines. He sings with restraint and directness about love and lust, while still leaving something to the imagination.

“Open” begins with a string arrangement that suggests the first crack of sunlight through a bedroom window. “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs/I’m a fool for the sound in your sighs,” Milosh sings. The way he stretches the word “fool” evokes Marvin Gaye’s phrasing, relaxed even as it smolders with longing. The song catches the narrator between sleep and wakefulness, shaking loose the cobwebs, the first thoughts in his head rewinding to a tryst a few hours earlier.

The album documents the stages of a love affair, each track an exquisitely arranged snapshot of a moment in time. Percussion percolates, bass lines exude an almost subliminal pull (while occasionally rising to a dancefloor-worthy pulse, especially on “Last Dance” and “Hunger”). Strings and horns flicker in and out, sometimes barely noticed, sometimes for only a few seconds – each note adding or subtracting a few carefully calibrated degrees to the emotional temperature.

The usual sonic cliches of the “quiet-storm” sound aren’t much in evidence: the unctuous saxophones, the stacks of synthetic keyboard goo. The sound of dripping water sets the pensive tone of “Verse.” In “3 Days,” the strings make a seductive entrance midway through the song, and then slip away, as if to affirm  the narrator’s rueful observation: “Love is terminal/not built to last/burn bright/burn fast.” On the closing title track, Milosh’s voice becomes another instrument atop an undulating, neo-classical synthesizer line, repeating the word “woman” over and over until it finally turns into pure sound. At a certain point, words fail.

greg@gregkot.com

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Violence touching unlikely communities in Chicago

    Violence touching unlikely communities in Chicago

    Diane Limas says the sound of gunfire has become so common outside her house in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood that she's frequently calling police to complain.

  • Road to record Emanuel tax hike paved by delays, 'gimmicks'

    Road to record Emanuel tax hike paved by delays, 'gimmicks'

    Moments after taking the oath of office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel told Chicagoans he had "been clear about the hard truths and tough choices we face" and vowed to put "the city of Chicago's financial house in order."

  • Posh Water Tower Place condo: $1.995M

    Posh Water Tower Place condo: $1.995M

    180 E Pearson Street Unit 3301: $1,995,000  Listed on July 17, 2015 Enjoy exceptional north/west views of Michigan Avenue and the lake from the 33rd floor of this three-bedroom-plus-den condo with two full and one-half baths. The perfect combination of elegance and comfort, this 2784-square-foot...

  • Northerly Island's nature preserve now open

    Northerly Island's nature preserve now open

    The only thing that lands on Northerly Island now are birds and butterflies.

  • Where to go to laugh while The Second City undergoes repairs

    Where to go to laugh while The Second City undergoes repairs

    The early-afternoon fire on Aug. 26 that started in the Adobo Grill restaurant next door to The Second City has forced the historic theater to move or cancel all of its performances in their Mainstage, e.t.c and UP Comedy Club theaters until at least Sunday, Sept. 20, which will mark 26 days without...

  • City to offer ticket, tax amnesty program

    City to offer ticket, tax amnesty program

    Faced with pushing through City Council a massive property tax increase and other fees as part of a 2016 budget, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to slightly soften that politically difficult package by offering an amnesty program for people who have unpaid tickets and back taxes they owe the city.

Comments
Loading
76°