Black Tape for a Blue Girl

Halo Star

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After releasing two heavy Duchamp-inspired albums -- 1999's As One Aflame Laid Bare By Desire and 2002's The Scavenger Bride -- Black Tape for a Blue Girl returns with Halo Star, a countryside pastoral type of darkness in 12 purposeful tracks. The wealth of acoustic guitars on the album recalls the work of Current 93, but lyrically Sam Rosenthal's project is less concerned with runes and mythology and more concerned with relationships and loss. There's a bit of Dead Can Dance here in the far-off exotic percussion that pops up from time to time, but that's it for influence -- the rest is all Rosenthal. He's developed into quite the earth-based songwriter, talking about "windows broken by the mean kids who live next door" on "Knock Three Times," the excellent, quirky appropriation of Tony Orlando's big hit. "Knock three times on your coffin if you want my love" isn't what you'd expect from Black Tape, and this fresh, risky attitude spices up the album elsewhere. There's the tried and true Black Tape formula, too, and bouncing between the new and old makes this one of the more solid collections from the band. From the more expected side, "Damn Swan!" is the best with its sleepy strum of the guitar and lyrics that show how well Rosenthal does the precious/acerbic juggling act. Bret Helm from Audra does an excellent job on vocals throughout -- "The Gravediggers" being his big showcase -- as does Elysabeth Grant, who's breathy but pitch-perfect. This new playful Black Tape for a Blue Girl should be extra thrilling for longtime fans, but being so varied and well structured, Halo Star ends up an excellent way to win over newcomers as well.

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