Ever since I first listened to Blonde Redhead nearly seven years ago there seems to be a dedicated group of hardcore fans that’s equally matched with ardent naysayers that compare this New York trio with a plethora of classic “artsy” bands and musicians of yesteryear. I don’t hear it, to be honest. I don’t think the naysayers have a leg(wooden or otherwise) to stand on. 23 was the album that made me a fan and led me to Misery Is A Butterfly and Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. Blonde Redhead do this cool thing where they make melancholy and bittersweet music that doesn’t make you melancholy or bittersweet. Theirs is a spacey, dreamy kind of shoegaze that is just as baroque and classicist as it is ragged and modern. 2010s Penny Sparkle was a pretty downbeat affair, leaning as close to easy listening as Kazu Makino and brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace have ever come, but it still contained some amazing moments of dark pop and mournful sway. Barragán in some ways is even quieter than Penny Sparkle, but it’s also one of their strangest and boldest records in ten years.
Barragán is a late night record. It aches and yearns to be played after dusk. Makino sounds as great as ever and the production is dark and breathy with the idiosyncrasies pulled down to just a subtle nuance. “Lady M” springs and bounces like a clock not quite telling time, while “Dripping” is sleek and sexy and has a great dance floor vibe. “Cat On Tin Roof” is slinky and playful. Simone Pace’s vocals have come a long way since the Misery Is A Butterfly days, moving from a slightly awkward stance to sounding really comfortable on the excellent “Mind To Be Had”. With a krautrock vibe, the song almost becomes transcendent in its nearly 9 minute length. “Defeatist Anthem(Harry and I)” is sad and absolutely beautiful. Naysayers or not, no one makes beautiful songs quite like Blonde Redhead can. Part alien, part naivety, and utter brilliance. “Penultimo” is nearly as beautiful, with Makino’s lovelorn delivery and the simple drum beat. “Seven Two” is awash in echos and reverbed guitar, as if sung from another dimension.
Naysayers will be naysayers, that’s their job. “Halfhearted”, “a cold fish of a record”, “dead-eyed and clammy”; these are just a few things said to describe Barragán(in one review no less.) This album is anything but halfhearted. It’s subtle, moving, and quite beautiful. But what do I know?
7.8 out of 10