Sometimes a sound creeps into your bones, slipping in with a sultry smooth texture that just blows you away. From the opening note of “Open”, the debut “single” by the duo of Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal that perform under the moniker of Rhye, I was arrested in my tracks, a pleasant mix of 80s cool jazz rhythms and movie-montage orchestration. The video that accompanied “Open” offered little additional information about the band, yet captured the song’s tap dance between a sensual, inviting atmosphere and the bittersweet regret in the narrator’s opening entreaty: I’m a fool for that shake in your thumbs…. For months afterwards, Rhye existed as an internet specter, a curious little time warp back to the Sade like Lover’s Rock – adult themed music without the adult-distancing language. In late 2012, the band released “The Fall”, another in what seemed like a drama of the darker, emotionally fraught space of the lover’s discourse, a sort of popular music distillation of Milan Kundera’s philosophical speculations on eros – hence the title (a book which for the record I quite dislike). On their first two releases, Rhye weaves a narrative of love as inescapable nihilism. Lovers are fools, endlessly searching, yearning for that elusive ideal, willing to be hurt and hung out to dry for the sake of companionship, unable to reign in their desires and impulses. Of course, this is nothing new in the realm of popular music, everyone from Elvis (“Fools Rush In”) to Sheryl Crow (“If It Makes You Happy”) to Beyonce (“If I Was A Boy”) have warned us of the dangers of loving another. But, do we listen? Never.
For months now, Rhye has been playing in the background, an attendant (jealous) lord waiting for the moment to strike with the slow blade that cuts to the core. Woman, Rhye’s full length debut album, furrows further into the maelstrom of romance deftly mixing musically intoxicating tracks like “Last Dance” and “3 Days” with undercurrents of lyrical ambivalence and evasiveness. It is this push and pull, this disarming seduction, that Rhye accomplishes so well; sneaky “love” songs filled with deceiving, duplicitous narratives ensconced between a chill yet lugubrious R&B veneer, venturing at times towards drowsy disco (“Hunger”). It entices, embraces, and soothes you into musical submission, and then unleashes the uncanny, it’s murky subconscious. On “3 Days”, Milosh begins with a lullaby croon, vocals that evoke a montage of white linens and unmade beds, all the while intoning “it’s just my nature I ruin love“, as the tempo increases and the emotions swirl into climax the narrative shifts to optimism(?): “we’ve got three days to fill each other”. Depending on how you hear it, “3 Days” is an idealized weekend tryst or a perpetual last tango filled with the celebration of the instant juxtaposed against the unavoidable impossibility of the forever. Or both? Perhaps, the answer is lodged in the curiously apropos homophone of a band name? But, maybe that just my imagination…
You decide… Listen to Rhye’s Woman in its entirety.
For more information on the band visit their website at http://www.rhyemusic.com/ and/or follow them on twitter @rhyemusic.
Also for some excellent remixes visit Rhye’s Sound Cloud page at https://soundcloud.com/rhyemusic. In particular this Ryan Hemsworth remix of “Open”