If Sade and Spandau Ballet were to have had a baby, the result would have been Rhye, an L.A. based duo comprised of Canadian musician and vocalist Mike Milosh and Danish musician Robin Hannibal. Their debut album, Woman, may be the most sensual and smooth album I have heard in recent memory.
When Rhye released their first single, Open, they did so anonymously. The video they released was an alternate arrangement to the version found on the album, with only a piano and Milosh’s incredible androgynous countertenor, and vague suggestive images (the video below is not this video). No one knew who they were… they simply appeared. Their second single, The Fall, was released similarly… but by now, people were paying attention.
I use the work sensual very specifically here… it is my understanding that the band is very vocal about what they would consider the over-sexualization of modern music… this music is not sexual in any way, but at every moment, you feel a groove that could only be considered a soundtrack to some serious baby-making. There is something intimate and honest about every track (although one track, One of Those Summer Days, does very little for me)… a beauty, and an appreciation of love and tenderness, found woven throughout.
The instrumentation is subtle… almost imperceptible under the gorgeous velvet-like tones of Milosh’s voice… but the layers present at every moment, including a constantly deep and soulful bass and drum rhythm underlining each pulse, are rich and fully textured, and accompanied by an assortment of strings, horns, and at one point, a freaking harp. It’s this subtlety that caused my ears to perk up… there are no driving beats, no jarring moments at all… it’s simply all laid out like a newly paved road, clean and perfect in it’s intention.
Every time I’ve played this for someone, the response has always been the same… location. The music is evocative, and it’s that very thing that puts this music into it’s proper place; whether it be on a long drive with an open road ahead of you, or a lounge where the cocktails are being sipped in a darkened corner, or the end of a long night in 1980 Manhattan… Rhye manages to take you out of wherever you are, and places you somewhere better. Where that is specifically, seems to be in the ear of the beholder.
The other predominate reaction is surprise once someone realizes that the vocals are male. It’s not just the tone or the mood of the music that evokes Sade, it’s very much his voice, and that would be a fair assessment.
I’m also reminded of Moby‘s latest album, Last Night… perhaps it is the notion that this is certainly night music that caused me to suddenly find myself swaying my shoulders and hips in a rhythmic way that could be considered dance, if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t (honestly can’t) dance… but there I was in my car… dancing away… and if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what would be.
The album doesn’t elicit many highs or lows… it seems to ride on a constant vibe of mellow, but it’s a well paced mellow that would be welcome as background at a cocktail party or the centerpiece of a romantic evening. The mere fact that Milosh uses “make love” as opposed to “sex” or other crass descriptors seems almost quaint and out of time (seriously… when was the last time you heard anyone under 50 use the phrase “make love”?)… but it does an incredible job of underlining the honest sensuality of the music.
Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back… but Rhye is putting the art back into the game that is love.
Smooth as lard infused brandy (a real thing),
Cornelius J. Blahg