Faith & Disease's slow transformation from a quietly elegant goth band to an equally quietly elegant group with a broader range had been one of darker music's better pleasures during the early 2000s. Passport to Kunming continues that progression -- the first song alone, "She's Got a Halo," suggests everything from New Order's warm bass flow to the Moon Seven Times's rich rural reflections and back again. It's a perfect sign that the core duo of Dara Rosenwasser and Eric Cooley aren't content to simply replicate their past, and if the album title and graphics would seem to promise an exploration into Chinese music more than anything else, the focus here is more on other interests. The growing interest in various forms of country and folk that the two have showcased in the past continues here, sometimes in very subtle ways. There's the gentle twang on Cooley's guitar on "How Far Does the Sky Go" or the Mojave 3-tinged stately piano of "Girl at the Window," but there's also the mighty fine cover of "Made of Wood," originally done the previous year by Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter. Elsewhere, the emphasis is more on drony psychedelia reworked for the band's sound -- the acid-fried solo growling down below the main rhythm of "Between the Folds," the moody keyboards of "Impermanence." The latter song could well be the album's secret highlight, a slow unfolding chiaroscuro of Rosenwasser's voice shimmering up through a slow, powerfully somnolent arrangement. For all this, the sense of what makes the band its own unit remains strong, and there are plenty of examples to show it, a continuing argument for the relevance of shadowy and sweetly sung melancholia in a 21st century world. The CD includes both a remix of "She's Got a Halo" and a video for said song.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett