Blonde Redhead 23

It seems like another life when Blonde Redhead were hammering away at their unabashed no wave/art rock that reeked of Sonic Youth worship. Since 2000’s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons — their career-defining moment — the three-piece of Kazu Makino and twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace have set an extremely high benchmark. 23 is only their second album in seven years but much like 2004’s Misery Is A Butterfly, this is another gorgeous statement by a band that seem unjustly doomed to live a life of only cult-sized adoration. Hiring Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, U2, Nine Inch Nails) may seem like a desperate bid to maximise appeal but the alt-rock production pioneer has given them the boost he’s known for. His presence is obvious from the opening seconds of the title track, as Makino’s heavenly coo is carried by a warm, wistful haze that is no doubt the influence of Moulder’s former client Kevin Shields. Unlike the grandiose, near-classical swirl of Butterfly, 23 immediately establishes a dreamlike state shrouded by sly electronic passages, masterful guitar interplay between Makino and Amedeo and Simone’s supple timekeeping. At times, Moulder’s production defines the record — "Spring and By Summer Fall” is practically radio-ready, while "Publisher,” at times, isn’t far off from the more delicate ambient work of Trent Reznor. However, Blonde Redhead were clearly looking for inspiration and this partnership is beneficial in furthering their music. Much like the evolution between their last two albums, 23 is another outstanding example of the progression that has this dynamic, extremely gifted band reaching their potential and thriving. (4AD)