I remember being asked by a friend how I would describe Blonde Redhead. My reply was, “Unconventional.” Since their formation twenty years ago and now through nine albums, the legendary New York City trio have never been ones to follow trends. Instead, they’re constantly pushing boundaries, taking the listener to places never before imagined or heard. Every note and every song is intended to challenge the way we hear things. Even on songs that may seem to be conventional, they’re a little twist that makes us realize that there is something new and exciting about the music.
Take the first single to be released in advance of Barragán‘s release, “No More Honey”. It comes across as a brooding, indie rock tune but the echoing of Kazu Makino’s voice and the amplified strings give it an eerie, angry, yet chilling feeling. The second single, “Dripping”, is a synth-heavy, slow burning number that would put a smile on Blood Orange’s face. It never reaches a climax; instead, maintaining a mid-tempo pace that is guided by a trippy bass line. The synth and steady approach is also noticeable on “Mind to Be Had”, a sprawling, moody number.
A Blonde Redhead album wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t a heavy dose of experimentalism. “Defeatist Anthem (Harry and I)” channels Yoko Ono’s trippy experimentalism and multi-layered methods to create a sonic landscape. “Cat on Tin Roof” has a brooding feel to start, but then a few flicks of the guitar and a Debbie Harry-like bellow transform the tune to a groovy tune you might hear in a David Lynch movie.
The standout track, though, might be “Lady M”. The song is graceful yet hauntingly beautiful and mesmerizing. With Makino’s falsetto providing the dreamy vocals and the stirring instrumentation by twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace, the song is one that will make you close your eyes and escape into Blonde Redhead’s world.
Barragán is an album that sees Makino and the Pace brothers continue to explore new sonic worlds. And like with any of their albums, it’s not overly accessible, but there lies the fun, the exhilaration of going to somewhere unknown. And with Blonde Redhead, we’re assured of visiting places never before explored.
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