Blonde Redhead’s breathtaking album ‘23‘ combines the sonic intensity of shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine with the dream pop of Cocteau Twins and Lush. Despite the stylistic conceits, they overwhelm the listener with the strength of the songwriting and dazzling, dizzying soundscapes. Like contemporaries Asobi Seksu (check out their stunning single ‘Thursday‘), they mine a territory between some of the aforementioned bands but somehow create something greater than a sum of their influences.
‘23‘ opens with the title track, galloping out of the speakers at a white-knuckle velocity, Kazu Makino’s vocals soaring and diving in melodic layers over frenetic guitars and heavy-doses of Kevin Shields-style reverb. ‘Dr Strangeluv’ is gentler, redolent of Cocteau Twins circa ‘Heaven or Las Vegas‘, while the icy, ethereal ‘Dress’ could from Goldrapp’s ‘Felt Mountain‘. ‘SW’ is more daringly original, part-Radiohead, part-Sigur Ros, part-M83, it features a male vocal lead, a propulsive breakbeat and weird Sergeant Pepper-style brass arrangements. ‘Spring And By Summer Fall’ keeps up the ferocious pace with Black Sabbath style vocals in a call and response with guitars echoing the vocal hook.
‘Silently’ is lovely ethereal pop in the mold of Elizabeth Fraser and Kate Bush, while ‘Publisher’ and ‘Heroine’ feature vocal manipulations for something more drifting and otherworldly, the latter owing a debt to early Goldfrapp in particular. ‘Top Ranking’ is more conventionally song orientated, but given bite by a crunching, rolling beat and other sonic emphemera. ‘My Impure Hair’ is underpinned by a wonderfullly discordant country tinge, a somnabulant merry-go-round finale.
‘23‘ is packed with ideas but never feels top heavy, blurring all the studio trickery into its technicolour swirl. One of the albums of the year; if you like this you might like M83′s ‘Lost Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts‘, Asobi Seksu, Cocteau Twins, Goldfrapp and My Bloody Valentine, or even the Lost in Translation soundtrack.