Woman (Rhye, 2013)

 Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A breathtaking collection of whimsical acoustics, "Woman" is something incredibly special and heartfelt. The band behind this unique album consists of Canadian artist Milosh and Danish instrumentalist Robin Hannibal, and most people haven't had the pleasure of discovering either of these two. Combined, they form Rhye, the collective creative mind behind this 2013 release that has captured my heart. Unquestionably. There's a reason it was long-listed for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. 

Because it's just so damn beautiful.

There's a very special sound here - a refined yet playful je n'est sais quois, if you will. This brilliant little Polydor release is airy, flirty and seductive, like a long-awaited caress from a crush you've been hungering for. It simply feels amazing; a strange thing to state, true, but this is just one of those albums that can trigger every good feeling and evoke a "welcome home" atmosphere no matter where you are. The meticulously plucked strings in each track suggest that a great deal of focus, contemplation and heartfelt passion went into each note.

Opener and major hit "Open" sweeps you into an audible dustpan of innuendos and deep grooves. It's a fantastic introduction to the sweet and decadent sound present throughout the record. The chorus features a great hook that pulls you in and cavorts in your ears. Moving into the funk-addled "Last Dance", the tempo picks up and a newfound sense of energy becomes prevalent. Cheeky horns and layered vocals form the heartbeat of this great little number.

Other standouts include the shimmering "Verse", which behaves very much like a muted midnight encounter along a tropical shoreline. Again, Milosh's layered vocals take centre stage here, like much of the record. His voice is simply on point and faultless in these ten tracks, flowing like waves and gently lapping against Hannibal's brilliant arrangements (in fact, many couldn't tell that the vocals were from a male singer due to the way the album was arranged, produced and layered, resulting in an air of beautiful mystery and refined elegance). "3 Days" is one of the best tracks on "Woman" and, despite not knowing what to expect upon hearing the harp-addled intro, it breaks into an edgy yet familiar beat that feels welcoming. This track really captures the special essence and atmosphere that Rhye were going for - that of decadence, emotion, sexuality and attraction. "3 Days" is playful, delicate, inspiring and undeniably addictive in execution. 

"One Of Those Summer Days" follows, slowing down to a crawl - the morning after "3 Days" had passed - and it's a beautiful thing to hear. A finely-plucked guitar echoes in the background through the dreamlike haze, inviting Milosh's gorgeous vocals to slow your pulse. It's a therapeutic yet contemplative piece that, with a brilliant string and horn arrangement mingled with electronic influence - works like a daydream. Closing out the album is the torturously short yet seductive "Woman". Acting as the true definition of the album, this title track merely contains that single word uttered over and over again. Without hearing the track, one might assume it could be the most boring and dull concept. But listen to it. What Rhye does here is sheer magic. A playful synthesizer introduces the track, plopping along before increasing in depth and scale. Milosh's vocals then enter the fray, uttering that one word continuously, but dragging it out so much that it becomes nearly incoherent but unashamedly passionate and human. It's fantastic. The production values really help add to the swirling immersion and prowess of what would otherwise be a simple track.

That's the magic of this album; the execution and attention to detail. It's like entering an old car. On the outside, it may be curiously outdated-looking or alien, but inside it feels warm, inviting and humbling. The craftsmanship is evident in each stitch of leather. The grooves ribbing along the seat like the bones of a whale. The polished steering wheel that looks as if it were made of mahogany, lovingly accenting the finely-attuned instrumentation and dials that click in an ever-so-satisfying manner. It's a slinky, smooth and succulent experience.

Music can provide the exact same sense of immersion, and that is why "Woman" will remain, in my opinion, one of the most dignified and personal albums of recent years - not just because of the subject matter it covers so eloquently, but the depth and near-insane level of polish behind it. A fine recording deserving of a listen, and a band that deserves all the praise in the world for such an incredible feat. It's a wonderful exploration of relationships, intimacy and undying passion. Despite only having ever released this one album so far, Rhye has made a lasting impression with this project alone.

Video Credits: RhyeVEVO, John Theod, Madien Nacheva, Ashley (Youtube)