Blaqk Audio enchants with new release
Many musicians love to focus on debauchery. Parties and other moments of indulgence seem to fuel song after song.
Electronic music, which caters to fast-paced, often superficial hedonism, especially picks up on these subjects.
But rarely does a band focus on the dark corners of pleasure.
Blaqk Audio not only does, but manages to turn the focus into an addictive, exciting album. Bright Black Heaven, the electronic duoâs follow-up to its 2007 debut CexCells, proves well worth the wait.
From the start, Bright Black Heaven sets itself apart from a lot of the electronic music on the market. The opening track âCold Warâ immediately establishes the albumâs bleak themes. Eschewing a verse-chorus-verse format, the song builds off soft synthesizers to a swelling crescendo and a lyrical cliffhanger of jealousy.
The songs in Bright Black Heaven focus on dark topics â betrayal, envy, voyeurism and isolation among them â but the album never wallows in that darkness. As with the hinting softness in âCold War,â thereâs an air of elegance to each track. Though Bright Black Heaven is a meditation on hedonism, it more so explores the lies and secrets hidden by it.
In other words, donât expect big club music. The electronic categorization relies not in vocal loops or rave-inducing beats, but rather in slowly developing tracks. The songs are danceable, but in a more intimate way.
Jade Pugetâs compositions mix intense beats with almost sensual melodies to give each track an intensity, but one doesnât overshadow emotion. âFade to Whiteâ and âFaith Healerâ are the perfect examples.
And despite shared themes and subjects, no two songs sound the same. Because of these shared themes and subjects, though, Bright Black Heaven is able to shift from faster-paced tracks to electronic ballads without ever feeling jarring or disjointed.
Some songs even evoke the work of electronic musicâs best artists. There are touches of Depeche Mode in the opening of âWith Your Arms Around You.â Other songs bring to mind Underworld. But unlike the British duo, Blaqk Audio puts equal focus on its music and vocals.
Bright Black Heaven is an excellent showcase for Davey Havokâs vocal range. In less than an hour, he sweeps through ominous ballads and soaring anthems. So many of the songs, such as âDeconstructing Godsâ or âBliss,â rely on a kind of throaty, sensual delivery for their main hooks. Paired with Pugetâs compositions, the songs build, and Havokâs restrained verses become commanding choruses.
That said, Havok can still deliver some intense vocals. âSay Redâ showcases his roots as a hardcore singer.
Each song on Bright Black Heaven succeeds, but none more so than âThe Witness.â The music is slick and uptempo, with a pulsating beat from Puget. Havok, in his greatest vocal display, sums up the albumâs hedonist themes in the bridge, singing, âI wanna hear you say this is your final confession / âIâve never felt like this beforeâ / I must admit, must say I loved your final submission / Oh, youâve never looked so good before.â
The album ends on a softer â but still impressive â note. The closing song âIll-Lit Shipsâ deviates admirably from the dominant sounds of the earlier tracks. Itâs a piano-driven number in which Havok croons over crescendos.
If âThe Witnessâ is the best example of Blaqk Audioâs more uptempo style, âIll-Lit Shipsâ is the best of duoâs softer side.
Unless musical tastes suddenly change, Bright Black Heaven wonât be the soundtrack at your next rave. Instead, Blaqk Audio has chosen to explore a side of electronic music that isnât in the spotlight, and the result is a beautifully crafted album.
Blaqk Audio not only transcends a sophomore slump, it grows as a band.