Rhye is mood music. Los Angeles (by way of Toronto) producer, musician and vocalist Mike Milosh augers Blood in an orgy of analogue keys, sensual strings, plaintive percussion and a cooing contralto. Much of the mystery behind the movement that was 2013's Woman has lifted; in its place, contentment. Initially a collaboration between Milosh and Danish producer Robin Hannibal, the latter was contractually obligated elsewhere, leaving Milosh to tour without him and further imprint Rhye as his own brainchild in the process. The time between albums was due to a mix of personal and label-related issues — a divorce, a new relationship and new label situation later, Rhye has returned with a near-perfect record.
Rhye is difficult to categorize but fundamentally groove-oriented. Soul by way of Sade, electronic reverence to early Warp artists, jazz and classical resonance through musical inclinations, Blood retains a contemporary yet future-proof vibe. Opener "Waste" carries a familiar feel, re-establishing its intent, reorienting the world. Across 11 tracks, Milosh progressively demonstrates a willingness to explore and exploit the sound.
"Taste" retains its flavour within a chamber of soul, infused with Milosh's clean falsetto amidst plucky strings and a waltzing swing. Numbers like "Please" and "Count to Five" revel in entrancing aesthetics, slow burning to oblivion. The pop-minded "Song for You" reveals its mainstream aspirations and "Blood Know" slips into a soothing yet sadly forgettable chanting, but the jazz bounce and strong songwriting of "Stay Safe" and the emotional anthem that is "Phoenix" soar. "Sinful" skirts into new territories, its folk and orchestral modes revealing Milosh's willingness to broaden the Rhye sound, as does the climatic ending number "Softly."
It's fair to note that Milosh's vocals can be polarizing, in the sense of its hypnotic, virtual drone. It exists on a pleasurable, erotic and lustrous plane, decadent yet virtuous in nature.
Yet Blood flows with humanity, an exploration of diverse cultures, sounds and sensibilities. Rhye reveals that it is in tune with itself and inhabits a world that feels distant and inclusive at once. (Last Gang)