Rhye – Woman
December is not here (yet), but I’m calling it already: Rhye’s Woman is my favorite album of 2013. Calm, minimalist soul-infused lounge music? It’s either I’m getting old or the current trend of music is going in a good way. (It’s also my favorite because of this rare occasion where both Dinda and I can enjoy the same album.)
Delving through the drapes of concise bassline, androgynous vocal, and the occasional strings, it’s hard to believe that Woman is the duo’s debut album. It’s also quite difficult to grasp that there are only two of them. Toronto-based Mike Milosh collaborated with Robin Hannibal a few years back for Hannibal’s main outfit, Quadron, but only after both coincidentally relocated to LA did they started the formerly mystery project only known as Rhye. They released Woman back in March, and the result is something that will probably make Sade rolls quite happily in her grave — wait, she’s still alive, so there’s that.
Comparisons with the 90s smooth jazz champion Sade is not without reason: both infuse R&B, jazz and soul into their music, both features prominent female vocal (although Milosh is most definitely a guy), and both have lax tunes that won’t offend even the most aggressive criminals. Though the ear-splitting strings is dominant in the intro to the opening track, Open, the rest of the song and the album goes like an expensive lotion. The duo thankfully didn’t spend too many time meddling with adding various arrangements and only keeping it to a bare minimum, with only Milosh’s contralto vocal (who many, including me, will mistake for a woman’s), definitive beats, and additional strings and horns here and there. The music mostly flows with a certain restrain, never too high or low as if they were afraid to hurt someone’s ears. On tracks like 3 Days, though, they seem to let go and found power within those classy instruments in a spirit not unlike Disclosure or even Volcano Choir to a stretch. But their signature is indeed in containing their power and emotion. Listening to Rhye is not to absorb the glare of the trembling bass or passionate wails, it’s more like tiptoeing between fragile glasses full of wine.