So, they are alive after all. Even the most die-hard His Name Is Alive fans could be forgiven for thinking that the band had broken up -- or at least gone into a deep hibernation -- after the release of their final 4AD album, Last Night. Though Warn Defever and Company were actually busier than ever with special MP3-only releases and albums and EPs on smaller labels like Ypsilanti, En/Of, and Defever's own Time Stereo, the lack of any widely released new material seemed ominous. Fortunately, Detrola, His Name Is Alive's debut album for the aptly named Reincarnate Music, puts to rest any worries about the band's existence and is definitely worth the four-year wait. Detrola sounds like the highlights of all of the band's previous albums chopped up and reconfigured into songs that sound familiar, fresh, and utterly His Name Is Alive; actually, it could make as good an introduction to their freewheeling musical invention as the 4AD comp Always Stay Sweet does. "Introduction" nods to the drama and spookiness of their earliest work: a heartbroken late-night lament surrounded by loops of noise and applause that turns into deafening noise, it sounds like it was recorded at Mulholland Drive's Club Silencio. "*C*A*T*S*," meanwhile, updates the ethereal atmospheres of Home Is in Your Head with meowing synths. "Your Bones" is a delicate acoustic ballad that could've easily appeared on Mouth by Mouth or Stars on ESP, while "Seven Minutes"' tight, sexy electro-jazz fusion proves that Lovetta Pippen is still a crucial part of the band's wide-ranging sound. Detrola finds the band exploring the same themes that have always run through their music: spirituality, sensuality, and mortality. It's doubtful that any other group could turn a simple statement like "you need a heart to live" into something as equally sweet and scary the way His Name Is Alive can. While Detrola sounds a lot like the band's earlier work, it's still inventive. The avant-pop on Mouth by Mouth, Stars on ESP, and Ft. Lake is still fresh-sounding, and this album's updates on that aesthetic are, in turn, a step forward. "After I Leave You" and "In My Dreams" use synth pop as an inspiration in a way that sounds futuristic, even alien, instead of stuck in the '80s. On the other hand, "I Thought I Saw" sounds like a slightly skewed take on "Wedding Bell Blues" and other sweet, sad soul classics, and "Get Your Curse" could be taken for '70s singer/songwriter pop if it weren't for unsettling lyrics like "Your house will burn for years and years." Detrola is slightly more subdued than some of His Name Is Alive's previous albums, but it's still a reminder of how much their beautiful, strange, oddly moving music has been missed. With any luck, their fans won't have to wait another four years before they make another album as good as this.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares