Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
A Haunting Patchwork Migraine
on 14 April 2009
While I concur with most of the praise heaped upon this album from the other reviewers, I find "Blood" to be quite a frustrating aural experience.
The album's strongest moments are created by the hauntingly bleak strings of Martin McCarrick et al, which appear in random pockets of the album (most notably on 'The Lacemaker' and in between a large bulk of the songs. And in the songs themselves, of course).
The songs themselves, when pulled from the relentless cut-and-paste smog of the album, are uniformly excellent. The emphasis is on the swishy ethereality of female vocalists such as Caroline Crawley (on the gorgeous 'Mr. Somewhere'), Deirdre Rutkowski (more or less the lead vocalist) and Alison Limerick set against a patchwork of moody midnight ambience (i.e. that 4AD sound).
So individual cuts such as 'With Tomorrow,' 'You & Your Sister' (the prettiest vocal Kim Deal ever recorded) and 'Til I Gain Control Again' (with guest Heidi Berry) are among the cream of the crop - moving nuggets of heart-breaking dream pop in the mould of bands like the Rain Parade, Cocteau Twins etc.
My problem: the album's best bits are sandwiched between meandering instrumentals (mainly from Ivo Watts-Russell, the brains behind this LP) which consist of grating drum machines, eerie overdubbed effects or spooky sounds and vocal manipulation. The album is essentially stitched together as one cloak of doom, with no breaks between songs or breathing space between the intensity of the music.
So the murkiness of the record is smothering. The album is miles beyond 'background music' and so falls flat in terms of cohesion. Short instrumentals such as 'Andialu' or 'Loose Joints' aren't particularly engaging and are ultimately frustrating with repeated listens. The overlong earache of 'Bitter' and filler such as 'D. D. & E.' are also unsatisfying despite the elegance of their arrangements.
The project works best when focusing on the songs/covers, rather than the indulgent patchwork of beautiful sounds. "Blood" is therefore a risky purchase. It cannot be programmed like a proper album (i.e. to filter out the dross), and demands to be played in its entirety. In its entirety, it is intolerable, but the highlights make it a glorious treat. So, a quandary awaits you.
People with the time and commitment to invest in this meanderingly gorgeous album are advised to do so. There are moments of astounding beauty here. Others should download 'You & Your Sister' and move on.