The Concrete Wonders of BLSHS's Abstract Desires
Ever since I stumbled across BLSHS trying to find subjects for my defunct band-name origin column -- you can only hear "we were high LOL" so many times before you give up on something -- I have been utterly entranced with them. Even at a time when Houston is delivering amazing esoteric electronic acts, Rick Carruth, Michelle Miears and Chris Gore stand out. Now they finally have something digital to show for it with debut EP Abstract Desires.
Ethereal beauty has always been BLHS's trademark, and here it is embodied as best it probably ever will be. How can you catch a dream? I don't know, but the six songs manage to do it with a haunting grip.
The thrust of the trio's appeal has always been edged with Miears' incredible voice. "Angelic" is a term I think I've thrown around before, and it's none the worse for wear for being used again. The quality of her vocal cords might just be a trick of genetics.
What surprised me a great deal on Abstract Desires was the sheer technical skill she has come to display in her work. Frankly, "she sounds pretty" is usually enough for me to enjoy a song; I don't need acrobatics to give high marks.
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That said, she's like a sniper with every note in songs like "Chased by Memories." Each time she opens her mouth Miers catches these amazing interval leaps like a master juggler. Even aside from her prophetic and uncanny lyrics, just following along her musical pathways is like watching a ballet.
I gush about Miears, but don't for one second want to understate the musical mastery of Carruth and Gore. In many ways they echo other, somewhat empty-sounding electronica like their buddies in Bang Bangz. However, BLSHS is a little more keen to throw out unexpected little flourishes that appear like dream symbols. There you are hanging from every word in "If I Fall" when you feel that weird, almost funky bass line crawl up your back.
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That's the genius Carruth and Gore bring to the music. Songs can feel a little repetitious at times, but only until you appreciate the indirect elements they add. In a more traditionally-instrumented band those would feel like self-indulgent quirks, but on Abstract Desires the result is more like an unnerving mixed-media work.
It's not totally without fault, of course; nothing is. BLSHS echoes a common problem in Houston electronica in that they have one good idea and sort of run with it several times in a row. Weirdly for a band so willing to play with their pieces the EP is not necessarily what I would call dynamic. It's a good dream, but you know exactly the world you're going to wake up to, you know?
It ends very strong, though. "Runaway" is a very dark song that has shades of VNV Nation's latest, more hopeful work. It gets almost preachy, but in an honest way that leaves the door open for future songs that seek to soother and answer rather than just entertain. I would call the song the perfect capsule of all that BLSHS is, and I hope very much that it serves as the jumping off point to many future incarnations of their excellent audio conclave.
BLSHS releases Abstract Desires tonight at Fitgerald's with Bang Bangz and Recovery Room. The EP goes wide on January 28.
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