Blaine L. Reininger

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Byzantium Review

by Ned Raggett

Blaine Reininger's third solo album had a bit of a difficult birth, coming off a split with the band that had been supporting his earlier work. Byzantium's indeed very much a solo effort as a result, with Reininger handling everything aside from saxophone and a couple of extra guitar parts. Unfortunately the change did not result in one of his better releases. On the one hand it's got some truly fine Reininger moments on it, perhaps notably the brilliantly titled "Ralf and Florian Go to Hawaii," a celebration of Kraftwerk's two core members. Musically it's not a Kraftwerk tribute though, and perhaps that's part of the problem with this short album -- Reininger is to a large extent hemmed in by then state-of-the-art methods of doing music on one's own, only to have all the synth bass and the unremarkable drum machine work drag down the songs. Songs like "Blood of a Poet" and especially the moody, slow pace of "Japanese Dream" have moments, but too much of Byzantium feels fairly commercially anonymous or reminiscent of other acts handling those element more fluidly. His low speak-sing voice has definite flecks of David Bowie throughout ("Teenage Theatre" in particular), but not always to good effect, while the cover of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" is a time-killing irrelevance. The LTM re-release in 2004, with liner note references admitting as much that it's not Reininger at his absolute best, adds some welcome bonuses, particularly in the form of the Paris en Automne EP, partially recorded with some of his backing bandmembers before the split. With a more nuanced blend of the technology and more striking atmospherics in general, notable on the title track and the fretless bass, buried disco drums on "Raise Your Hands," it's a smart addition to the main album.

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