Rhye's ‘Blood’ is a raw return to form

Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 12:07pm

NOSELL

Loma Vista Recordings

 

In 2013, a quiet album emerged, half-hidden and nearly forgotten in the grainy synth dystopia Kanye’s Yeezus and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories would eventually create. Bathed in cool shades of grey, the soaring vocals and lush melodies beckoned. Contemplative and seductive, the songs lingered just out of reach — dreams you could only barely remember.

That album was Woman by Rhye, the joint project of singer/songwriter Mike Milosh and producer Robin Hannibal. And even after the album garnered critical acclaim, Rhye continued to remain frustratingly out of the spotlight, discreetly slipping from one location to the next as they toured live, never anything more than a hushed murmur among public discourse.   

Even among the shadows, a lot can happen — and did happen — in the five years after Woman was first released. Milosh split from not only his wife, Alexa Nikolas, but also his original producer, Hannibal. Within the first week of the initial Rhye tour, he failed to meet sale expectations, went into debt and spent the next year attempting to recover. In order to ensure Rhye still had a future, Milosh played a total of 476 live shows. For him, there was misfortune and struggle within these past five years, but there was also this too: The experience of watching various sets of audience members react to his music, the visceral intimacy fostered by each distinct venue.

Rhye’s latest release, Blood, is based on these experiences, on the harmony that can be found in times of hardship. There’s an unrestrained warmth within these tracks, an allure that hasn’t existed in any of Rhye’s previous work. The album sparks with physicality; each song is allowed to explore its own space, both liberated and encouraged by Milosh’s delicate croon. Rhye's dynamic progression enables them to peel back the glossy veneer that had encased Woman, allowing Blood to surface: carnal, emotive and aching to be felt.

This album is primal. The intricate beauty of a romantic experience — the fluttering joy of falling in love, the sweetly slow build of lust — has no place in Blood. Instead, there exists a restless sort of hunger. The near-tangible vibrations of overdrawn guitar riffs in “Phoenix” climb into your skin. The twisting melodies of “Count To Five” intertwine and creep across a tremulous beat. “Sinful”’s initial minimalism builds into a dense fog of silky instrumentation and gasps of “We’re not alone, you’re my sinful.”

In many ways, Blood picks up right where its predecessor left off. The opening track, “Waste,” with its gauzy orchestral serenade and Milosh’s breathy “Oh, my love cave into this space,” is reminiscent of older songs “The Fall” and “One Of Those Summer Days.” Rhye still keeps its tempos slow, dragging periods of silence out until the empty spaces carry their own texture. The songs still sometimes have a tendency to meld together, woven into uniformity through insubstantial lyricism and barely-there intonation, constantly threatening to disappear completely.

Yet, despite these flawed similarities, Rhye’s sophomore album is distinctly more enticing than their debut. Songs are more organic. Rough and pleading, they speak to our most basic emotions. The profound remorse found in “Please” emits like a quiet prayer. The juice of “Taste” drips down the chin, sensuality bursting like an overripe peach.

Whereas Woman was structured grace, Blood is all raw yearning — desperate to consume the object of its fascination until there is absolutely nothing left.