This article originally appeared on Turn On Tune In.
Heralded as the latest torch bearers of the horrendously named ‘Sophisti-Pop’ scene, Rhye live up to so much more on their full length debut, Woman. For this is music detached from any critical notion of ‘sophistication’, music that hasn’t a care to attach credence to certain realities; no, this is music that just exists as a vessel for sensual enjoyment.
The secretive project of two of the Electronic scene’s brightest composers, Rhye came about after Mark Milosh (vocalist/producer) re-located to LA and bumped into Robin Hannibal, the renowned producer who he’d worked with on the debut LP of Copenhagen’s slickest Electro-Soul export, Quadron. Having both become entangled in all-consuming romantic relationships in the Golden State, the duo decided to join forces once more and pay homage to all things lovey-dovey.
The final sonic product is not dissimilar to a grown-up child who still bears the chubby baby-face of their infancy – despite the meticulous production and lengthy recording process, Milosh and Hannibal still manage to retain their original vision of creating an LP drenched in the unabashed appreciation of a close relationship with a significant other.
From the first yearning strings of track one, ‘Open’, to the last faintly audible remnant of the 2:40 fade-out of the title track, this is an insatiable piece of work, constantly drinking in joy and constantly calling out to the universe for more. The aforementioned ‘Open’ is a gloriously welcoming handshake from the LP, gratified by an orchestral fade-in that kicks into a finger-clicking heartbeat. The combination and subtle interplay of these two elements – symphonic Jazz and relaxed R‘n’B – form the basis of all the good things that follow.
Track two, ‘The Fall’, is certainly one of those good things. It bursts into life with a fantastically simple rolling piano, pushed to cathartic heights by an intuitively timed piece of soothing slide guitar. Ethereal vocals overlay the instrumental honey, “Oooooo, make love to me/one more time/before you go”. It’s a rudimentary refrain but lays bare the only real conflict point to be found on the record; fear of loss. Amidst all the pervasive enjoyment of romance there’s a nagging anxiety in the lyrics and instrumental tension, a quiet trepidation that this paradisiacal life may end at some point.
It’s easy to forget that the vocals themselves are sung by Milosh, so effeminate is his style. The choral emasculation is heard most vividly during ‘Verse’, upon which Milosh finally allows his voice to take centre stage, shaping the track around his gorgeous vocal chords rather than using them as hypnotic backing instruments. The album proceeds sumptuously from here, from the religious undertones of ‘Shed Some Blood’ to the faux-futuristic 80’s tribute ‘3 Days’ (you can just imagine Ryan Gosling intently listening to this whilst driving through a dystopian cityscape), right through to the audible ambrosia of ‘Major Minor Love’.
But the true zenith is tucked away at the back of the record, as Rhye return to the handclaps and Bowie-esque stabs of sonic previously seen on ‘Last Dance’ during track 9, ‘Hunger’. A track with certified swagger, it’s the musical equivalent of a mulleted yuppie strutting down Hollywood Boulevard in the late evening sun. Definitely the catchiest song on the album, it builds to a glitchy climax straight out of the New York underground, all harmonised by the voluptuous invitation to “Hear the sounds/running through the ground.”
And that’s the crux of this record. Rhye have fashioned an LP that brims with appreciation for experiences, both sensual and visceral. Their music seeks to lift the listener above the mire of contemporary life, to look instead at the beauty of the world; and whilst at points the album runs too far away from reality and falls into the arms of quixotism, Woman is as good a lesson as you’re going to get in how to best deploy and maximise the senses. Forget the sophisti-crap and just enjoy it.