Black Tape for a Blue Girl

Mesmerized By the Sirens

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On Black Tape's second album, Sam Rosenthal and his rotating pool of collaborators create another fine release, much more textured and atmospheric than The Rope and more in line with the future of the band's career. While there are again a couple of songs that have a much more conventional rock air (unsurprisingly, these are the ones again featuring drummer Allan Kraut), many now embrace unconventional verse structures and eschew immediate hooks -- it's a quietly bold move that works wonders. The mix of singers (about eight all told) and instrumentation again creates a striking variety through Mesmerized, even while still maintaining an overall unity in presentation. Rosenthal's own musical voice is his work on keyboards, soft, minimal swells, sweeping orchestrations, and more all coming to the fore, especially on such solo cuts as "Dark Skinned and Inviting" and "With a Million Tears." As before, Oscar Herrera is the evocative voice at the center of key songs, most notably "A Teardrop Left Behind," a majestic, obsessive portrayal of love further fleshed out by Walter Holland's subtle acoustic guitar and Rosenthal's own strong synth arrangements. It's perhaps one of the band's most self-consciously goth efforts, but of a very Romantic (with a capital "r") bent, made all the more intriguing by its distinct two-part structure, with wordless singing matched with spoken word in the calmer conclusion. Another standout with Herrera is "Beneath the Planks," with Rosenthal's harpsichord-sounding keys and Richard Watson's clarinet providing the bed for the singer's bravura performance. The contrast between Herrera and Holland, who sings on "Lie Broken, Bleeding" is pretty clear, the latter's somewhat strained vocals not quite fitting with the album's overall flow. An amusing moment happens at the start with "Jamais Pars," where singer Sue Kenny-Smith audibly fluffs a line and laughs. It's a nice, human touch to leave in.

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