Blonde Redhead are singer Kazu Makino and twins Simone and Amadeo Pace. They have been making music since 1993 and their new album 'Penny Sparkle' took me by surprise, partly because I hadn't heard them before but mostly because this is such a lovely recording.
Together this fine little trio demonstrate the more gentle face of contemporary electro-pop. This has a great deal to do with Ms Makino's fragile and very pretty voice (not unlike that of Lali Puna's Valerie Trebeljahr at times) which glides effortlessly through the ten numbers in this creditable collection.
The formula is an uncomplicated but effective one. Uncluttered rhythm tracks are decorated with layers of diaphanous synth chords and occasional guitar accents. The pace of the music is uniformly slow to mid-paced and I cannot imagine that anyone came even close to breaking a sweat during its creation. ('Not Getting There' is about as sprightly as things get!)
'Love Or Prison' is a particularly interesting invention. Not unlike Berlin's splendid 1986 song 'Take My Breath Away', it trundles along laconically on the back of a fruity synth obligato with Ms Makino's voice floating above it like a ghost.
'Your Plants Are Dead', as its title might suggest, is a marvelously maudlin affair. The melody, however, is one of the strongest in the bunch and even though the somewhat wayward guitar tuning is a tad distracting (perhaps it's meant to be that way!) it still manages to be one of the album's highlights.
Title track 'Penny Sparkle' is a haunting composition. The stripped-down arrangement (redolent of some of Bjork's quieter moments) is rather beautiful in a less-is-more kind of way.
'Oslo' seems to have become my favorite in the bunch. The cheeky beats and fully-formed tune come quite near to being a pop song. Ms Makino's ideosyncratic vocal peformance, however, enusres that the band never strays too close to the mainstream!
Blonde Redhead's minimal grooves are unlikely to get you dancing (although a smootch or two are potentially feasible!) but there are more than enough good ideas on this album to keep us quietly entertained and out of trouble for a while.
This is a really amazing album. Don't recall any other band who after 18 years are still progressing and taking the listener to new planets. Thanks Glen Johnson for turning me onto them way back in 1995. Yes they were intense then & they are still intense. Every track here is breathtaking. One after one they grab your heart twist & turn it into little pieces. 'Here Sometimes', 'Not Getting There', 'Will There Be Stars', 'My Plants Are Dead', 'Love Or Prison', 'Oslo', 'Penny Sparkle', 'Everything Is Wrong', 'Black Guitar' & the exceedingly brilliant 'Spain'. Kazu with her fragile beautiful voice & via the melodic backing of Amedeo & Simone then the end result is simply astonishing. It is hard to understand all the lyrics but what I hear or grasp is breathtakingly inspirational but in any case you can find them beautifully presented with both the LP & CD artwork. Would say that over the last three years that this has been the album that have played the most & the vinyl version is simply sublime. When ever I feel down & out then this is the LP that I turn to, to lift my spirits.
A well produced new album by the NYC trio, with some more beats than the previous album, and the distinctive voice of Kazu Makino along with the Pace brothers. The 8th studio album is a nicely organized set of tracks, combining colorful tunes with darker ones in perfect harmony. For fans the album is a must, specially in the Deluxe Edition, with plenty of design details to admire.