Rhye’s 2013 debut album, “Woman,” grew to widespread acclaim due to the wonderful pairing of Danish producer Robin Hannibal’s soft pop and soul arrangements and the floating nature of singer Mike Milosh’s dreamy soprano. But between the release of “Woman” and the duo’s latest album, “Blood,” Hannibal announced that he would no longer be behind the production for Rhye, leaving Milosh with the opportunity to emphasize his individuality as a musician.
But instead of going completely solo, in “Blood,” listeners find Hannibal’s producer-oriented approach replaced with a live band. Sections of instrumentation and songwriting are handled by a variety of different studio musicians, including Milosh himself. The product is stylistically consistent with “Woman.” It’s a modern, affectionate soul take with shades of pop, electronic, R&B and indie.
Despite having more polished compositions compared to its predecessor, the main attraction of “Blood,” — and Rhye as a whole — is Milosh’s somber, falsetto vocal stylings. He glides over the sweeping cellos and fluctuating synth with zero friction and great sensibility. Milosh’s voice stays consistent for the most part on the record, but occasionally, like in “Song For You” and “Stay Safe,” his breathy voice takes larger risks with accentuated backing vocals or a colorful melody.
Like “Woman,” “Blood” is a thematic aggregation of romance, remorse and lust. Each song puts Milosh in another love-ridden situation. In the opening track, “Waste,” he faces changes within his beloved, in “Please” he shows regret for speaking careless words, and in “Phoenix” he recognizes that his current love is a detriment to his mental stability. While each song deals with personal issues, songs like “Blood Knows” and “Softly” offer a heightened candid voice, providing the greatest personal and honest expressions on the record.
The production on the album is dynamic yet solemn. The minor chord progressions are softened by the delicate arpeggiating keys or gentle guitar plucks, but the upbeat percussion keeps the arrangements lively. Rarely does the sound indulge without vocal mediation. Only at its most daring — “Taste” and “Phoenix” — does the album place decent emphasis on its compositions. The record often marries bleak melodies with pop-inspired drums, which can be jarring, but any disagreement in the sound is amended by Milosh’s light-as-air vocals.
This slight juxtaposition goes beyond melody and rhythm; the choices in texture and instrument vary within a wide range as well. The band mixes modern, mainstream tools like synths, electronic drum kits and keys with classical instruments — the long draws of the cello and viola further the musical sentimentality.
Even though the duo split up, “Blood” offers no departure from its members’ previous work. The album’s clear, melancholic arrangements are interpretations of love’s pitfalls through the discipline of contemporary soul music. The record is then only enhanced — and enhanced greatly — by Milosh’s soothing voice that’s as comforting as it is pained.
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