I was both pleased and concerned when I got my first actual request from an independent musician for some coverage here in my humble corner of the cyberworld. I mean, I’d like to think I’m a pretty nice guy, so what if I thought it stank? Nonetheless, I decided to give it a good airing and see what happened. Imagine my relief when this release turned out to be pretty damn good.
White Blush is the project of Carol Rhyu, who lives in LA. I’ve been to LA, but I had to hang out with washed-up glam rockers at the time, so I guess I never saw the cool part of the musical scene. Anyway, she cites the Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star and Kate Bush as influences, and I can certainly hear that, but not to a slavishly imitative extent. As I mentioned in my review of the rather sublime Indoor Voices EP, there are two ways to attempt to achieve good art: the right way and the I-don’t-know-what-the-eff-I’m-doing way. Ms. Rhyu may be living in the 80s (as many younger artists are right now), but she has a mastery of the styles she’s trying out on this eclectic recording that is quite refreshing.
It’s pretty obvious from the mega-80s drum machine action that she’s into the whole New Romantic scene, with a heavy dose of 4AD goodness mixed in. The drill is robotik percussion, shimmery keyboards and soft, cooing female vocals sighing and swooping overhead.
I was just listening to John Foxx’s legendary Metamatic recording this week, and while the post-Kraftwerk robot drummer thing is an occasional taste, in the right mood I can really get into it. She’s using them pretty tastefully on this little album
The first track, “True Luv” is actually my least favourite, being a bit slight musically, though it’s a pleasant enough pop listen. Things get more interesting with “Mirror”, which features sequencer-style synth reminiscent of an old Tangerine Dream album that is pleasantly hypnotic.
But every successful recording in the pop genre needs its pop hit. If you don’t have one tune that makes the listener’s synapses tingle, you’re dead in the water. White Blush has such a song! Track three, “Jolene”, really made me sit up and take notice. I’ve listened to it several times. This is the most “dream pop” number and wouldn’t be out of place with the Cocteau Twins or a Seefeel recording or hell, even Siouxsie and the Banshees at their best. The chorus is simple, mega-ethereal and just plain beauteous. I recommend that White Blush pushes the shit out of this one, because it’s one of those songs that you’re kind of dumb to dislike.
After this high, things take a reflective turn with “Wait”, which indeed pleasantly reminds me of the 60s-ish reverb-land inhabited by Mazzy Star. This mood piece is followed by “808 Myst”, an instrumental that would fit in with the best of early 80s avant-garde British synth music. I don’t know if this is a “chiptune”, because despite my protest that I’m not that old, I never really had video games growing up, so I’m hardly likely to listen to music based on video game music. Anyway, I like the track.
The recording finishes with “Juice of My Heart”, a track that really, really reminds me of the music on Claire Hamill’s cult vocals-and-drum-machine album Voices (which, if you like the kind of music that White Blush likes, you really ought to check out). The insistent buried beat and the multi-tracked Rhyus dream-pop us right out of the EP and back to reality.
Well, I have to say this is a very promising start for this act, which manages to plumb the past for ideas while retaining its own personality. For lovers of those ambient lady vocalists like Julee Cruise, Dead Can Dance, Lisa Germano and all the aforementioned influences.
The EP is pay what you can, so go pay what you can! Now!